Captains In-Waiting – The Next Group Of Leaders (1 of 2)

We’re in a bit of a golden age for AFL captains, with the last few years seeing some all-time greats lead clubs into battle.

Though I am aware both have their critics, Joel Selwood and Trent Cotchin are well and truly in the frame when it comes to the greatest leaders their respective clubs have fielded. However, given their retirements over the last 18 months, it is important to ask who the next crop of great leaders will be, particularly at clubs where the current leader is hitting that 30+ age bracket.

So, thats what I’ll do, I suppose.



The Lions have had the captaincy bounce from Dayne Zorko to the combination of Lachie Neale (30) and Harris Andrews (turning 27 in a month), which will probably mean that the big defender will get a couple of years as the standalone leader once Neale has had enough.

Unless, of course, the Lions decide they want to stick with the two captains setup?

Players like Jarrod Berry (25), Hugh McCluggage (25), and Zac Bailey (24) could be likely contenders for the role, but I would not be surprised to see Deven Robertson’s name start to get a mention when it comes to leadership roles. He was touted as a leader prior to being drafted and, to the surprise of many, turned his back on the chance to head home, re-signing with Brisbane.

It was a mature decision from the 22-year-old and he looms as a genuine possibility to become a leader at Brisbane whilst both Will Ashcroft (19) and Jaspa Fletcher (19) continue their development.



Darcy Moore is 27 years of age and you’d expect him to retain that position for the next three years.

That gives us a bit to work with, as there may be a couple of candidates to step in as the next leader of the club.

Nick Daicos will be 23-ish by the time Moore is ready to start thinking about stepping away from the captaincy. Yeah, it’s young, but the way Daicos carries himself, you’d be a brave man to state that he would be incapable of carrying the load for his team.

And if he doesn’t want the honour that early?

Hmmm… it’s a tougher one. The Pies might ask big brother if he is interested in leading the club for a couple of seasons. Josh is currently about to turn 25, whilst someone like Isaac Quaynor (23) could be an option, as well.



The Dockers are in an interesting position with Alex Pearce as skipper. He didn’t have the year he’d hoped for in his first season as captain, but gets a chance to redeem himself this coming season and I reckon he’ll be better for the run. He may have found out that leading the club is a bloody tough gig at times, much like Stephen Coniglio found at GWS a few years back.

There is a bit of feeling that Pearce is just keeping the seat warm until either of Caleb Serong or Andrew Brayshaw is ready to take over, and there is likely some truth in that. Pearce is 28 and could be ready to hand over the captaincy duties as soon as the end 2024.

The likely replacement?

Well, Brayshaw has an extra year on Serong, so you could understand if they opt for him, but I get the feeling we might end up with co-captains at the Dockers.



The Suns have one of those annoying co-captain setups in place with Jarrod Witts (31) sharing the role with Touk Miller (27).

Whilst you can see Witts stepping aside in the near future, whether the Suns opt to go with a traditional one-captain setup, or bring in another to work with Miller provides an interesting situation, as the Suns have a few that may slot in quite well.

Already part of their leadership group, Noah Anderson (22) looks primed for the role, but Matt Rowell screams leadership potential, as well. Is this one of those situations where we see a three-way?

Settle down, people… there are other sites you can go to and accidentally click on links dozens of times if you’re into that. It happens to the best of us…

A Miller-Anderson-Rowell captaincy group for a couple of seasons before it segues into an Anderson-Rowell combo seems like it could work well.



James Sicily is another who had plenty of  critics (including me at times, admittedly… his temper was his downfall for a while) but he embraced the responsibility of captaining the club and found himself in the All-Australian team as a result.

That said, Sic is 28 and probably has two-to-three seasons left as captain. Who’s next cab off the rank?

Already in the leadership group, Dylan Moore would be an incredible story if he was to take the reins. He would make it two third-round picks in a row to captain the club (Sicily was pick 56, Moore was pick 63). At 24, he has time to grow and develop a little more, but I love his attack on the footy and he is a workhorse.

The next option would be Trent Adam Shields’ lovechild, Jai Newcombe. At 22, he will be entering his prime when the captaincy is likely up for grabs, and at the Hawks, they don’t hand the number three guernsey to just anyone. Will Day (22) could also make a strong claim around this stage, as well.



I’m on record as saying I did not like the decision to have Luke McDonald as captain alongside Jy Simpkin. I understand it, as Simpkin was 24 when appointed, but McDonald… I felt as though he couldn’t lead a horny French sailor to a brothel.

Anyway, enough bitching.

North has some promising candidates when it comes to the next captain of the club. Nick Larkey remains the last of a leadership team from 2023 under the Simpkin/McDonald combination, with Jack Ziebell and Ben Cunnington gone, and Ben McKay leading himself way from the club to Essendon.

Is this the opportunity for the new breed to take control of the club? Luke Davies-Uniacke could step into the frame, as could Bailey Scott, Tristan Xerri as the number one ruck, and Cam Zurhaar, whose actions on the field embody leadership.

My bet is that Larkey is now being prepped for the role, given his previous leadership group experience, but if you get LDU muscling his way in to join Simpkin, who’ll be around the role for the next four or so years, then I don’t think anyone is complaining.



Well, the door is open right now, with the retirement of Tom Jonas, so who are the prospects?

At just 23, Connor Rozee’s name has been thrown around a fair bit in recent weeks, but from where I sit, I reckon Zak Butters is a better fit. The way he attacks the footy and the player just screams “follow me”, so he’d get my vote.

I guess the thing is – they’re both 23, and there could be a push to give the role to someone a little more senior and then turn to one of the two in a couple of years. I reckon it might be a mistake to do that, with the potential contenders looking like Ollie Wines (been there, done that, and now 29 ), Darcy Byrne-Jones (has been on the leadership group), and Dan Houston (underrated as a leader and could surprise).

We’ve heard so much about Rozee and Butters. They are the future of the club. They are the current of the club, as well, if that makes sense? Bite the bullet and hand over the captaincy to one of them.

And for Christ’s sake, don’t give it to both of them. Steer clear of that again, please.



Great to see GWS thumb its nose at naysayers and instil Toby Greene in the role of standalone captain for 2023. Given Greene’s reputation, it was a gutsy move, and it sure as hell paid off, with Greene being named as All-Australian captain this year.

I don’t know Toby – never met him – but I kind of felt proud of him!

Anyway, Greene is 30, so the club will no doubt be thinking f the next leader of the team. For me, the choice is an obvious one.

Sam Taylor is just about the best one-on-one key position defender in the game. If he’s not, then he is second behind only Harris Andrews. At 24, by the time Toby is done as the leader of the club, he will be absolutely cherry-ripe to take over. And then, once he has had his run, the Giants have a ready-made replacement in Tom Green. Both are already part of the Giants’ leadership team and again, provide a wonderful example of how the Giants have been able to manage not only their list, but their emerging leaders.



At 28, you’d think that Patrick Cripps has a couple of years left as the leader of the Blues, but they have a standout ready to take the reins as soon as he is ready to pass them over.

Sam Walsh is 23 years of age and will be cherry-ripe to assume captaincy duties from Cripps if and when the time comes. He works as hard as anyone in the league and runs his guts out for the Blues every time he steps n the park. He’d make a great captain, but that doesn’t mean he wants to, does it?

In the case of Walsh not being as motivated to become captain, the Blues are spoiled for choice, also possessing Jacob Weitering (turning 26 in a few days) who could bridge the gap between Cripps and Walsh, if required.


Hey… where’s my team?

I heard you think that. Didn’t know I was psychic, did ya?

Well, the title says “1 of 2” so that would indicate there is a second part. It would also allow you to deduce that if your team is not in this one, it’ll be in the next.

And I am tossing up whether I put membership restrictions on it, so be nice.


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