Jamie Buhrer is poised to be handed the captaincy of a rejuvenated Newcastle as the Knights prepare to try and cash in on the biggest off-season player clean-out in the club’s history.
While there is unlikely to be an official announcement for at least another few weeks, the Newcastle Herald understands Buhrer will lead the new-look Knights out for their season-opener against Manly at McDonald Jones Stadium on March 9.
The only question is who will be named as his co-captain if coach Nathan Brown decides to go with more than one leader in his third season at the helm.
Highly experienced former Roosters duo Mitchell Pearce and Aidan Guerra are obvious contenders alongside last season’s co-captain Sione Mata’utia while backrower Mitch Barnett is another player from the leadership group who is rated highly by the coaching staff.
Brown has given very little away on the captaincy issue during the pre-season. But he clearly has some outstanding candidates to choose from if he goes with duel captains or even three skippers, as he did in 2016 with Trent Hodkinson, Jeremy Smith and Tariq Sims.
Last year, Hodkinson started the season as sole captain but when his form fell away and he was dumped to NSW Cup after just seven rounds, youngster Sione Mata’utia was handed the role.
He captained the side on eight occasions before Buhrer became co-captain with nine games remaining with Brown looking to take some of the pressure off Mata’utia because of his issues with concussion.
It remains to be seen if Brown thinks Mata’utia, who will play centre this season, will benefit from not having the extra responsibility.
Buhrer, who revealed on Tuesday he has kicked off negotiations to extend his stay with the club beyond the end of this season, claims he enjoys the added responsibility of the captaincy but says his approach around the playing group won’t change irrespective of who gets the job.
“It won’t change the way I interact with the boys on and off the field,”he said.
“Regardless of which way Browny goes, he’s got a lot of quality leaders to choose from and it’s a great position for the club to be in.
“We’ve got a great leadership core here now and some real experience among the senior group which is fantastic.”
In a massive facelift, the Knights have shed 22 players from the squad that picked up a third straight wooden spoon in 2017 with expectations building about what Brown’s new-look squad is capable of achieving this season.
Buhrer is adamant the added expectation is a good thing.
“We’ve brought in Mitchell, a seasoned veteran, to play one of the more important positions you can have in your football team – halfback – so there is obviously going to be a lot more stability and experience there,”he said.
“We’ve got a lot more depth in the forward pack than in seasons’ past and obviously we have added some size in the outside backs so all of that points towards a drastic improvement on what we have seen the last few years.
“We are going in quite confident about what we can achieve and we’ll handle the expectation.”