In the history of Australian Rules football, there has one overwhelming constant; each premiership team as a rule has had an experienced captain with leadership skills that have played a large role in steering their team towards premiership glory.
However, in recent times there has been an increasing trend by certain clubs not to appoint a single leader, but to share the load by appointing co-captains.
Notably, the Brisbane Lions, upon their formation in 1997, adopted this approach with Alastair Lynch and Michael Voss appointed as joint leaders. But the important fact to remember is at end of the 2000 season, after four seasons sharing the job, the Lions abandoned the co-captain experiment and Alastair Lynch decided to step down as co-captain for the good of the team and let Voss captain the Lions on his own.
As a result, in the three successive flags that the Lions won in 2001, 2002 and 2003, Michael Voss was the sole skipper and is now remembered as one of the most inspirational and decorated captains of all time.
In 2007 and 2008 during Leigh Matthews’ last two years as senior coach, the Lions again toyed with a multiple captaincy set-up that failed with Simon Black, Jonathan Brown, Chris Johnson, Nigel Lappin and Luke Power all sharing the role, with the same group continuing on in 2008 with the exception of Chris Johnson who by then had retired.
Once Voss was appointed coach in 2009, Jonathan Brown was wisely appointed sole skipper and this remained the case until last week.
Now it seems the Lions have abandoned this principle for the 2013 season by appointing co-captains again, as Jonathan Brown has now been joined at the helm by 27-year-old defender Jed Adcock.
The concern is that now the Lions have decided to share the captaincy role, there is little confidence from an external viewpoint towards the club’s decision making processes.
If the club’s hierarchy truly believe that Brown has passed his best and has little more to offer as a leader and player, it is hard to understand why Brisbane has not done as Carlton has with Chris Judd and allowed him to just play out his remaining career as a regular player rather than remaining as a co-captain.
The ideal solution as a rule would be for the existing captain to remain in the role while is he worthy. However, once his time is up and the younger brigade are ready to are to take over, then this handover should occur with a clean break, not to be forced into a job-sharing arrangement which could be uncomfortable and awkward, as it could be in this case for both Brown and Adcock initially and throughout the season.
Given Brown was willing to step down and had to be talked into staying on in the shared role, it seems a sign of weakness that the Lions are unwilling to give Jed Adcock a shot at the captaincy on his own. It is almost as if they are worried he will not be up to the task or may possibly be too injury prone, as he has been at times in past seasons, so as a security blanket, they have asked Brown to stay on beside him.
A better solution would be for the Lions to either give Brown one last season as skipper or allow him to step down and hand the reins over to Adcock.
In pulling a half-hearted move and allowing them to be co-captains, the Lions’ decision stings as a cop-out and this indecisiveness could well be an indication of Michael Voss’ own negative mindset, which is not a particular good sign heading into a new season that is personally important to Voss, as his own job could well be on the line.