Jack de Belin, Jack Bird and Josh McGuire figured briefly in captaincy discussions for Sunday's match against the Sydney Roosters but Dragons coach Anthony Griffin insists that Tariq Sims was the obvious man for the job.
With Ben Hunt sidelined until at least the last round of the regular season with a fractured arm and his deputy Andrew McCullough undergoing ankle surgery, Sims was the obvious choice to step into the leadership role for the must win clash at Toowoomba's Clive Berghofer Stadium.
The NSW Origin forward is an Illawarra junior and proud club man who has made more than 200 NRL appearances for the Cowboys, Knights and Dragons.
Sims also wasn't among the 13 players who breached NRL biosecurity protocols and NSW COVID laws by attending a barbecue at prop Paul Vaughan's house, which resulted in Vaughan's sacking, 12 other players serving one-match suspensions and the NRL imposing fines totalling more than $300,000.
The Dragons haven't won a match since the July 3 incident, which followed a 19-18 defeat of the Warriors the previous night.
Dragons v Roosters - Round 23
However, the only other available players selected to play the Roosters who were not at the barbecue are wingers Mikaele Ravalawa and Max Feagai, rookie playmakers Talatau Amone and Jayden Sullivan and forwards Billy Burns and Jackson Ford.
"Everyone understands what has happened the last four or five weeks at our club," Griffin said. "We've been down that road, we've dealt with it, the point moving forward is it's been dealt with. Tariq Sims is our captain this weekend."
Asked about reports that de Belin had been touted as captain, Griffin said: "I heard that, too. Tuesday afternoon we ran through a few names. There was a story made out of it."
Griffin said that de Belin was "a leader" within the squad, "but Tariq Sims is our captain on Sunday and it's a great honour for Tariq. He's a local boy and we celebrated his 200th game a couple of weeks ago".
Asked if de Belin had been genuinely considered, Griffin said: "No, I don't think so. When we lost Andrew McCullough, there were four or five guys that could be captain of the side.
"It's a funny set-up this week because you don't normally lose two captains in the space of four or five weeks, but we have some senior players there in Jack Bird, Jack de Belin, Josh McGuire and Tariq Sims."
De Belin did not initially admit to being at Vaughan's barbecue and only came forward later. However, his on-field form can not be questioned and Griffin, who had not previously coached the former NSW Origin lock, admitted he had been surprised by how well he was playing after just eight appearances in three years.
"His first couple of performances, even though they were 30 or 40 minutes, were real quality," Griffin said.
"Naturally he went through a bit of a stage where the return of football got to him a bit, but the last three or four games, he's played 80 minutes and to the standard he has, I've been really surprised and impressed.
"He'll be better the more he plays. What he has done the last couple of months ... he's in good shape and he's a mentally tough competitor. He'll only get better."
Recovery and preparation with Jack Bird
De Belin is the only middle forward at the Dragons to play a full 80 minutes in a match this season and he has made 49 tackles in each of the past two games against Canberra and Penrith.
"It was an enormous effort by him to play 80 minutes in the middle and to be as effective as he was, particularly with some of the defensive plays in the last 15 to 20 minutes when he was constantly trying to lift the team," Griffin said.
Sims missed the 34-16 loss to Penrith due to suspension, and Griffin said he was excited to be back for the Roosters clash and to have the honour of captaining the team.
"It's important he leads with his actions, and that's the type of guy Tariq is," Griffin said. "He's an explosive player, and that's what we're looking for - to lead with his actions.
"He's had the experience of playing Origin this year and did well, he's been at the club a long time and talking to him this morning, it really means something to him. He just needs to be at his physical best and the players will play off the back of that."