NRL 2018: Chris Lawrence puts hand up for captaincy at new-look Wests Tigers
Adam Pengilly - SMH
Chris Lawrence isn’t hiding his desire to take over the Wests Tigers captaincy but is first to acknowledge Ivan Cleary’s vast recruitment drive will spread the leadership load across the joint venture’s cavalcade of recruits.
One of Cleary’s final points of pre-season business will be to settle on a captain for the Tigers, who are in search of a successor for Bulldogs recruit Aaron Woods.
Lawrence and Elijah Taylor filled in for Woods while he was on representative duty last year, but big-name signings Josh Reynolds and Benji Marshall could also enter Cleary’s thinking before round one.
One-club veteran Lawrence, 29, would provide stability for Cleary amid a roster rejuvenation and the former Australian representative said he would jump at the chance to lead the Tigers in 2018, who will feature a sprinkling of old and new faces with Reynolds, Marshall, Chris McQueen, Ben Matulino and Russell Packer.
“I’ve made no secret of the fact I’d love to be captain,” Lawrence said. "I’d put my hand up and it would be a great honour if I got the chance.
"I think for this group – being such a new group with so many senior guys – it’s not going to be down to be one person leading the group. There’s going to be a bunch of senior guys throughout the squad that are going to drive what we’re going to do.
"What we achieve will be down to those guys rather than one captain barking the orders.
“I think we were definitely too young in the last couple of years. It’s great to have young kids and some outstanding talent, but you need the balance. The NRL is such a tough competition and to be consistent for 24 rounds week in, week out you need a balance of experienced players.”
While much of the focus has been on the arrival of Reynolds and his combination with halfback Luke Brooks, Lawrence has felt a seismic shift from the group which gradually built momentum under Cleary last season.
And their ambition won’t be anything less than a first finals appearance since 2011.
“Realistically every side’s goal … if it’s not to make the finals they shouldn’t be playing footy,” Lawrence said.
"It’s definitely the biggest change since I’ve been here, although we’ve had a couple of different coaches. I haven’t been here where we’ve had such a change of personnel and players coming and going.
“It was always going to be different. Everyone has just seemed to have fitted in really well. A lot of senior players have come in with great input from other clubs and trying to drive the stuff we’re trying to achieve.”