Despite a star-studded line-up around him Central Newcastle junior Ethan Cook will lead the Butcher Boys into 2017 after being appointed captain by coach Craig Miller.
Second-rower Cook was given the nod to skipper ahead of Saturday’s Newcastle Rugby League season opener against the Kurri Kurri Bulldogs at Kurri Sportsground.
Miller said although the likes of Brad Murray, Jake Finn and Steve Gordon were prominent recruits for the club he felt Cook was the best man for the job at St John Oval.
“Cooky’s been at the Knights and Penrith, a quality player and a Central junior,” Miller said.
“I think for what we’re trying to do at the club, it’s out of respect to that. He’s got a level head with a wealth of experience around him, but it’s important we send the right message out.”
Miller said he expected halfback Murray, prop Finn and centre Gordon – playing their first competition games for Central since signing in the off-season – to be up to the task from round one.
“I’d expect so and I don’t think they need too much tutorial in regards to what needs to be done,” Miller said. “I mean the message from every Newcastle first grade coach this weekend would be very basic and that message comes strongest through those senior players.
“I’ll be surprised if they don’t lead by example in making sure these first few weeks, while we get to know each other a bit more, remain nice and simple.”
Dane Cordner, brother of Sydney Roosters captain Boyd, has been named on an extended Butcher Boys bench.
Kurri have Ryan Walsh and Terence Seu Seu in the halves while Jonah Lisiua shifts to hooker.
Elsewhere in first round encounters only seven players remain from the South Newcastle squad that won last year’s grand final and just one in the backline being Rex Johnson, who moves from halfback to centre. The Lions host the Maitland Pickers, bolstered by English Super League pair Dane Tilse and Luke Dorn, at Townson Oval on Saturday.
On Sunday and Macquarie have named 13 players from September’s decider to tackle a new-look Lakes outfit at Cahill Oval while Wests are all-but full strength at home against a Kori Barber-led Cessnock at Harker Oval.
Meanwhile, Macquarie will now meet the the Concord Burwood Wolves in the NSW Challenge Cup decider at Mudgee on May 7 after the Sydney side defeated Wests Illawarra 24-14 in Wednesday night’s semi-final at Leichhardt Oval.