Michael Maguire, in his first act as New Zealand coach, has made a big call by not making one.
Maguire has opted not to name a skipper for the historic clash with England, resulting in the unique situation of the NZ side running out at Mile High Stadium without a single one having the ‘c’ next to their name.
New challenge: Issac Luke and Michael Maguire have been reunited in the NZ setup.
The decision will provide the senior players an extra incentive to impress in Denver, while giving Maguire an opportunity to see whether a natural leader emerges before the season-ending internationals.
“Isaac [Luke] will run out but I’ve said to the team that no one will have the ‘c’ next to their name,” Maguire said.
“We are actually going to have everyone accountable for what’s going on in the team. Isaac will be the one talking to the ref and do the coin toss. But everyone is accountable to play a part in leadership on the field.”
Previous skipper Adam Blair was unavailable due to suspension while several captaincy contenders – including Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Shaun Johnson and Tohu Harris – didn’t make the trip.
Asked if he would settle on a skipper for Tests at the end of the year, Maguire said: “When the time comes, I’ll have some good quality there still sitting back in New Zealand.
“I am going to spend a bit of time bringing these boys together to create what we’re after.
“One thing I’ve learned talking to a lot of players around the international jersey is it’s one of the highest accolades you can have in New Zealand rugby league.
“We’ve got to recognise that and everyone has to recognise that. When you’re playing for your country, it’s one of the highest things you can do for New Zealand.”
Maguire has a long relationship with Luke from their time together at South Sydney and the coaching appointment has provided an opportunity to rekindle it. At times, it has been a rocky ride.
The pair won a premiership together, but there were periods where Maguire dropped him to reserve grade after a dip in form. However, Luke’s performances for a rejuvenated Warriors side have warranted a Test recall.
“He was texting backwards and forwards when he heard I was possibly going to get the role,” Maguire said.
“He said ‘I’m in if you get it.’
“Obviously you have relationships with players during your time as a coach and we had a great time together and some challenges as well.
“That’s obviously what makes the relationship of a coach and a player. He’s been outstanding in camp, he’s really led these young men along with a few senior boys.
“It’s a real credit to him, he’s turned his career around a little bit. He’s had some challenges over the last couple of years but he’s doing well at the moment, he deserves it.”
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