The Ascension of Connor Rozee

The appointment of Connor Rozee to the position of captain of the Port Adelaide Football Club is a bold move; a clear sign that the Power are looking far beyond their 2024 campaign in terms of growth and leadership.

He is the man – no longer a boy – to lead this club into the next decade. In an announcement detailing his contract extension, Port also made it clear that Rozee has made the progression from talented youngster to team leader. With 106 games under his belt, he is absolutely ready to take charge.

At his right hand is Zak Butters – another 23-year-old who has captured the hearts of Port supporters with his maniacal attack on the footy. Drafted in the same year, Port really struck gold with these two and it is really no surprise that their ascension to the leadership positions at the club occurred so soon.

However, as always, there are some who believe that it is too soon to elevate Rozee to the role of leader. Rarely do these people convincingly elaborate on their opinions, but in a league that has powerhouse players manning the captaincy roles, perhaps they still see Rozee as the little guy who started with such a bang in 2019, when he snagged five goals in game number three. However, at 23, he is about to enter year six in the league and has grown from an elusive forward with enormous potential to a genuine midfield star. And he has plenty of improvement, yet.

The ‘too soon’ argument is a strange one, given how many success stories there have been when appointing young leaders at various clubs.

Chris Judd was 23 when he was elevated to be skipper of the West Coast Eagles back in 2006. Though young, his leadership was exactly what the Eagles needed at this point in time to curb some of the more… errr… ‘exuberant’ players who were leading players in different directions.

The result?

A premiership that very year.

Wayne Carey was only 21 when the Kangaroos saw the oak tree in the acorn and announced him as the captain of the club. Despite what occurred in later years, Carey was the player the Kangaroos rallied around and followed, and his swagger on the field led them to two flags in the 90s. It probably should have been three, but for poor kicking.

Trent Cotchin was 23 when the Tigers made the call to instil him as their leader. Despite external forces laying the boots into him for his leadership style, and his early struggles in the role, Cotchin emerged as possibly the best leader Richmond has ever had, captaining the club to three flags. His openness and ability to both inspire teammates and stand up in big moments now make that appointment look like a master-stroke.

Joel Selwood’s appointment as captain of the Cats seemed a foregone conclusion. Despite being on a list with several experienced heads and proven ptemiership stars, Selwood’s play was inspirational and the decision to appoint him as captain paved the way for him to forge a career as the greatest leader that club has seen. He was simply undeniable.

Of course, it is not always wine and roses for those who step into the captaincy at a young age. I am sure we remember, not so fondly, the way Melbourne attempted to usher in a new era by appointing both Jack Trengove (20) and Jack Grimes (23) as leaders.

Suffice to say, that didn’t work.

They combined for 189 games in total, which is nothing to sneeze at (189 more than me!) but given they were appointed so early in their careers, so much more was hoped for from them. Not expected, but hoped for.

And that might have been the problem.

I don’t think people are hoping Rozee will be good in the role; they are more wondering just how good he can be.

Still, there are those who believe that Rozee’s style of play isn’t the type that befits the position of captain of a club. When you think of the leaders listed above and the way they played the game, what stands out? Think about it – Carey, Cotchin, Selwood, Judd… when the footy was there to be won, none of them were ever far from the action. They all loved the crash-and-bash style and given the opportunity to knock someone over, or smash through a tackle, they were the ones who were always prepared to do exactly that. They had mongrel to their games.

Rozee is a different type of cat. He is elusive, agile, nimble, and whilst he did average 3.76 clearances per game, that was only good for 75th in the league. It was also good for just fifth on his own team. He is anything but a crash-and-bash player.

As I said, a different cat.

We’re not privy to all that goes on behind the scenes at a club. Some pretend to be and I always find that hilarious, but there is more to captaincy than what occurs on the field, particularly these days. Rozee strikes me as someone who will be able to handle the additional responsibilities of leadership in his stride.

He is well-spoken, intelligent, and is a student of the game. He will grow with the role. The team will grow with him. As the face of Port Adelaide, Rozee will shine.

Whilst the last year of Tom Jonas’ tenure as captain was… not great, and the idea to instil co-captains in Jonas and Ollie Wines several years ago saw Wines sabotage himself whilst on water skis, the captaincy of Rozee seems very different.

Here is a bloke who has been heading to the United States with Trav Boak to get fit in the off-season. There is no one better equipped to teach him about sacrifice and drive than Boak, who resurrected his own midfield career after being shifted out of his role in 2018.

What he has learnt from Boak – a great leader of the club – will hold him in good stead.

Make no mistake, the appointment of Connor Rozee in this role is Port Adelaide’s way of telling the league they’re not going anywhere. With Rozee and Butters joined by Jason Horne-Francis in the middle, the Power have made the statement they plan to be in contention for a long while.

And you know what? I actually believe them.


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