Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Australian Kangaroos head coach Mal Meninga has a big year ahead of him as his side looks to win their third straight Rugby League World Cup at the conclusion of the NRL and Super League seasons, and on top of that must select a new captain.
In 2021, Australian captain Boyd Cordner was medically retired as a result of a concussion issue that had plagued him towards the end of his career, leaving the green and gold without an on-field leader.
Meninga recently revealed to The Daily Telegraph that there are four players currently being considered to take on the coveted role next.
All four candidates are currently the captain at their respective clubs, but Meninga must decide which one of them, in particular, is the right player to lead the Kangaroos into the World Cup.
— Gallagher Australian Kangaroos (@Kangaroos) November 19, 2021
Cameron Murray is a proven NRL and representative talent who has consistently performed at a high level for the majority of his career thus far, being tipped by many as a future Australian captain.
However, he is the least experienced captain out of the four candidates having just been given the role full-time at South Sydney.
While Murray could still captain his country in the future, the 24-year-old still has to prove himself in the role for his club.
Daly Cherry-Evans is certainly an experienced captain who has had success in the role at a representative level in the past when his Queensland Maroons side won the 2020 State of Origin series, although he has also lost two series as captain.
He is also yet to win a premiership with his club side the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles as captain and many pundits have Nathan Cleary starting over him in the Australian side; however, Mal Meninga has confirmed to the Australian that DCE is currently leading the race to retain the Kangaroos halfback position.
Under less than ideal circumstances, James Tedesco took on the role of captain for both the Sydney Roosters and New South Wales in 2021, replacing his former teammate Boyd Cordner on both sides.
In his short time as a captain, Tedesco has already won a State of Origin series and been named the Dally M Captain of the Year, making the fullback hard to overlook for Australia’s captaincy.
Nathan Cleary is yet to be tested with the pressure of leading his team solely on his shoulders, sharing Penrith’s captaincy with lock Isaah Yeo for the past two seasons, but in that time has made and won a Grand Final with the club.
What may end up holding Cleary back, in the end, is the fact that, unlike the rest of the candidates, the halfback is yet to make his debut for Australia, so giving him the captaincy instantly could be received poorly by senior members of the squad.