Captain Oh Captain

by Andrew Weiss 

Over the past few months there have been announcements of captains for various teams in the AFL, Australian cricket teams and even this last weekend in the A-league. For some it was just a temporary appointment, for others hopefully a long term position. Whenever captains are announced there is often quite heated debate amongst experts and the average punter about whether the person choosen was the right choice. Discussion occurs on whether are they too young or too old and do they have the right qualities to be a leader.

On the weekend Mitch Cooper not only made his debut for Gold Coast United in the A League but was also named captain of the team.  Many people saw this as not only detrimental to the team but also to Mitch himself. Some believed that it would place too much pressure on this young lad even if he was just filling in the captaincy role. Others were disgusted that the captaincy role would be regarded in such an undervalued way.

Mitch Cooper however was not the only person to become captain of a team on debut. George Bailey not only debuted for the Australian Twenty 20 cricket team this summer but was also captain in his first match. Again there was a mixed response to his appointment. Some experts even believed that he was chosen in the team purely to be the captain rather than as a batsman. Whilst on cricket, much debate has occurred in the last week about Ricky Ponting being named replacement captain in Michael Clarke’s absence for two ODI’s especially now that he has been dropped,  when a possibility was there to give a young David Warner the chance to show his skills in this role.

In the AFL we have seen four teams choose young players as captains for the coming season, Andrew Swallow at the Kangaroos, Joel Selwood at the Cats, Callan Ward and Phil Davis as co captains for the GWS Giants, and Jack Trengrove and Jack Grimes as co captains of the Demons. Jack Trengrove will now become the youngest ever AFL captain. Obviously at GWS their captain was probably going to be relatively young considering most of their list are still teenagers, but for Swallow and the two Jacks they are replacing more senior team mates and Selwood replacing a captain who has retired.

So will these young captains have the qualities needed in this day and age to lead a team in the AFL? Will they have the respect of their team mates? What makes a great captain? History has shown that some of the greatest AFL captains in Wayne Carey and Michael Voss took charge of their respective teams at a young age with great success. The great Hayden Bunton not only captained the Norwood Football Club in the SANFL but coach it at the age of 19.

In the modern era where there are large leadership groups and leadership teams, mentors for leaders and players, players of all ages and experience in leadership groups does it really matter who is the captain.

So here are some questions I will put out there:

Who have been the greatest captains? What made them great captains?

Who should determine who the captain is – the players, the coaches, the board or even the owner?

Should there be just one captain for a team or a number of co captains?

Is a young player a better choice for captain than an experienced team mate?

Should the captain be the star player for the team or someone just well respected?

Does marketing value play a role in choosing a captain these days?

Should a person ever captain a team the same time they debut for that team?

Do we place too much emphasis on captains now days, when there are so many different leadership groups going around?

What is the role of a captain these days?

Who do you think would be the best choice for captaining the team you support?

And so the questions could go on and on. In the end whenever a new captain is announced no matter what the team is I am sure the debate will continue over whether they picked the right person for the job.


About Andrew Weiss

Andrew is one of the few Brisbane Lions supporters that lives in the Adelaide Hills. He still has bragging rights over any Crows or Port supporter by mentioning the back to back to back premierships the Lions achieved in 2001-2003. After playing for over a decade for the mighty Adelaide Lutheran Football Club better known as 'The Doggies' he now spends his Saturdays running around footy ovals as an umpire, getting abuse no matter what decision is made. Coaching is probably next on the agenda as his two sons have started to play the great game of AFL. Andrew is a sports fanatic who when not watching or reading about sport is teaching secondary students about Biology, Nutrition and Psychology.

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