Jason Taumalolo is now North Queensland's sole captain after Michael Morgan's medical retirement, but the powerhouse lock can lean on some club legends.
Taumalolo, who needs to get through contact training to return from a broken hand against the Bulldogs at QCB Stadium on Sunday, spoke to NRL.com while promoting the Kayo Grassroots Support Program.
Leadership is nothing new to Taumalolo - he skippered the Cowboys when Morgan was out with a shoulder issue for much of last season and started 2021 sharing the position - but he'll now hold the full-time role on a solo basis for the first time in his career.
"With the news of Morgo retiring, it's pretty devastating for the club and the whole region of North Queensland, [him] being a local kid from Townsville," Taumalolo said on Monday.
"The way he carries himself and the way he led us as a club I think was huge, especially with the departure of Johnno [Johnathan Thurston], Matt Scott and Gavin Cooper in the last few years.
Get Caught Up: Round 5 must-see moments
"To end your career the way he did is pretty sad. The boys are pretty shocked. But I guess with the responsibility of being captain, I've still got Morgo to access for a bit of leadership. He's still turning up to training and having his say every now and then.
"There are a few good leaders I'm able to contact. I've got Johnno and Matt Scott up in Townsville, so I'm sure it will make my job a lot easier, especially with players like Jordan McLean still playing."
Watching from the sidelines after breaking his hand following the round one loss to Penrith while his team went win-less for the opening month of the season stung Taumalolo. Rumours of a rift with coach Todd Payten - which he's denied - have also irked him.
"When you're not going too well there's going to be some questions asked, but it's pretty disappointing to see," the Tongan forward said.
"But in saying that, getting a win [against the Wests Tigers on Sunday afternoon] definitely helps take a bit of pressure off us after the stuff we've copped over the last few weeks.
"Especially going down to Leichhardt Oval, a place where we hadn't won for a very long time, to hold out the Tigers after a pretty eventful week for them as a club losing Tommy [Raudonikis] - I think it was brave of the boys to do that," Taumalolo added.
Talk of a problem between Taumalolo and Payten blew up after the coach criticised his star player's defensive movements in his first post-match press conference as a fully-fledged NRL coach.
Both men have reiterated that honesty is a key part of their long-standing relationship and Taumalolo didn't take offence. However, he is motivated to finally respond on the paddock when fit.
Morgan announces immediate retirement from rugby league
"I was annoyed getting injured after the round one game that we played. I couldn't make up for it the following weekend and had to wait another 4-5 weeks to be able to do that," he said.
"Hopefully by the time I come back on the field I give the boys a bit of energy and try to lift the team a little bit."
The 27-year-old played only 51 minutes to open the campaign and expects he'll continue on reduced minutes as Payten wants to preserve his talisman's body and make him more effective.
"I'm not too worried about my minutes. Toddy knows what's best for me and is trying to look after me," he said.
"I've still got to pass Thursday's contact session, but if I pull up good the next morning then I should be all right.
Every try from Round 5
"If not, then I'll give it another week."
Kayo is providing fifty $1000 cash grants to grassroots rugby league and Australia Rules clubs in NSW and Victoria.
Ten clubs will win an Ultimate Kayo Day at their local ground featuring the cash grant presentation, a visit from the Toyota Kayo Hilux full of giveaways and an appearance by a sporting great.
"I think it's a great initiative to be supporting all grassroots sport. It gives these kids somewhere to go, gives them a good starting base and sets them up if they want to go down that pathway," Taumalolo said.
To enter, clubs need to "Kayo their Kanteen" with stickers provided by Kayo. To get involved clubs should visit localsport.kayosports.com.au.
NRL Magic Round Brisbane 1-Day Passes are now on sale with eight massive games across round 10 at Suncorp Stadium this May. With the league's best players all heading to Brisbane, you'd hate to miss it! Tickets at NRL.com/Tickets.