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The captaincy conundrum: Who's handing over the reins?

Peter Ryan
November 5, 2016 5:12 PM

AFL 2016 Rd 17 - St Kilda v Melbourne

Jarryn Geary (left) and Jack Steven are leading candidates for the Saints' captaincy

AT LEAST five clubs appear to have a decision to make on their captain with St Kilda and North Melbourne certain to have a new skipper in 2017 while the Brisbane Lions, Essendon and Gold Coast face decisions on the role.

North Melbourne and St Kilda leaders Andrew Swallow and Nick Riewoldt have both said they will not captain their clubs next season although their AFL careers will continue in 2017. 

Swallow, 29, led the Kangaroos to consecutive preliminary finals in his 102 games as captain while Riewoldt is a Saints legend, having led the team in 220 games and three Grand Finals (including the 2010 draw). 

Jack Ziebell is the obvious successor to Swallow at North Melbourne and the 25-year-old said on Friday his style would not change if he was awarded the title

"I've said publicly before that if I was to captain or I wasn't to captain it probably wouldn't change much of my actions and the way I go about my football," Ziebell said.

"I'm about trying to help my teammates improve, as well as myself, and drive this footy club to hopefully its next premiership." 

Swallow steps down as Roos captain

The Saints face a more difficult task given the shoes being filled. 

Jarryn Geary, a popular clubman and reliable defender, is the safe choice although dynamic forward Maverick Weller has earned many plaudits for his leadership since joining the club in 2014 and might be a left-field choice for the emerging Saints. 

Quiet club champion Jack Steven and youngster Jack Newnes are also contenders for the captaincy while David Armitage remains an outside chance.

Speaking on SEN during the week, football manager Jamie Cox said there was no rush to appoint Riewoldt's successor. '

"We’re really pleased that candidates over the last year have started to put their hand up and actually taken Nick to a stage where he’s comfortable in relinquishing the captaincy," Cox said.

"It’s an exciting time for leadership at our club. I think what we’ll do is let it play out for a bit in pre-season and see which one really emerges from the pack."

New Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan made it clear Tom Rockliff had not been guaranteed the captaincy in 2017, with the club likely to go through an extensive process to choose its skipper. 

Lions' football manager David Noble said in October the club would open up the leadership positions among the playing group before choosing its skipper.

There appears to be no obvious candidate for the captaincy, although best and fairest winner Dayne Zorko and talented midfielder Dayne Beams are experienced enough to be considered for the role. 

Essendon is in a completely different situation to the Lions as they look to choose a skipper after the tumultuous events of the past four seasons.

They appear to face a choice over incumbent Brendon Goddard, who took over the role for one season after Jobe Watson was suspended, Watson himself, and midfield star Dyson Heppell. 

Watson has not indicated whether he would be keen to resume the role that he handled so well during a critical time for the club, or whether he would prefer to enjoy football without the responsibility. 

Most observers expect the Suns to appoint a young captain to take over from Gary Ablett, who asked the club whether it would consider the possibility of trading him back to Geelong ahead of this year's trade period, despite having two years remaining on his contract.  

The two candidates are key forward Tom Lynch and key defender Steven May. Both players are talented and respected, and could either fill the role as joint captains or have one player carry the skipper's title with the other being vice-captain.

Western Bulldogs captain Bob Murphy will return to lead the defending premiers when he resumes after missing most of 2016 with a knee injury. 

Club captains 2016

  • Adelaide – Taylor Walker
  • Brisbane Lions – Tom Rockliff
  • Carlton – Marc Murphy
  • Collingwood – Scott Pendlebury
  • Essendon – Brendon Goddard
  • Fremantle – David Mundy
  • Geelong – Joel Selwood
  • Gold Coast – Gary Ablett
  • Greater Western Sydney – Phil Davis/Callan Ward
  • Hawthorn – Luke Hodge
  • Melbourne – Nathan Jones
  • North Melbourne – Andrew Swallow
  • Port Adelaide – Travis Boak
  • Richmond – Trent Cotchin
  • St Kilda – Nick Riewoldt
  • Sydney – Kieren Jack/Jarrad McVeigh
  • West Coast – Shannon Hurn
  • Western Bulldogs – Robert Murphy/Easton Wood* 

*Easton Wood led the club to the premiership as Murphy was injured.