Dave Dennis To Captain Waratahs in 2013

Michael Cheika and new captain Dave Dennis address the crowd at the Waratahs' 2013 Season Launch.

Michael Cheika and new captain Dave Dennis address the crowd at the Waratahs’ 2013 Season Launch.

by Brendan Bradford –

Michael Cheika agonised over his selection of Dave Dennis as captain for the 2013 Super Rugby season and only informed the team of his decision as they boarded the bus from Moore Park to the city for the Waratahs’ season launch at Ivy this afternoon.

“I went down and told the team before we got on the bus,” said Cheika at the launch.

“Obviously, I’ve been considering the topic for quite a while; leadership at this province is a very important factor. I wanted to take my time and see the pragmatic workings of everyday training, on field and off-field, and who I felt was the best person to embody the values that we are holding ourselves to account for this season. The way the team reacted to the announcement, I think I’ve made the right decision.”

Citing hard-work and toughness as qualities he looks for in a captain, Cheika said that while Dennis wasn’t necessarily the best player on the park, the respect he commands from the playing group made him the right – if not immediately the most obvious – candidate for the job.

“Hard work is the number one,” said Cheika.

“When you work harder than anybody else – and not necessarily be the fittest, or the strongest or the fastest – but if you work as hard or harder than anybody else, then there’s no way you can’t have respect. A big part of the way the team wants to be seen this year is hard-working and honest.”

Tah Man, Israel Folau, Dennis, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Kingston and Michael Hooper climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge to launch the 2013 season.

Tah Man, Israel Folau, Dave Dennis, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Kingston and Michael Hooper climb the Sydney Harbour Bridge to launch the 2013 season.

Dennis has had an unfortunate run of injuries in a 47-match Waratahs career but the twenty-six year old came of age last year as a consistent performer and played in all of the Wallabies’ 15 games after debuting against Scotland in June. A versatile loose forward and second-rower, Dennis has had experience captaining Sydney University and says he is honoured to join the list of great names to lead New South Wales.

“It’s a huge honour for me and something that I didn’t really strive to achieve but something I’m extremely proud to be asked to do and really looking forward to,” said Dennis.

“I’ve had a bit of experience in the past at club level and I’ve tried to lead in different ways since I first came here in 2006 and I’ll probably continue with my own way this year – not a lot of words and just try and lead through my actions.”

The disappointing 2012 Super Rugby season was characterised by lack of direction and leadership and Dennis has been charged with the task of turning the franchise’s flagging fortunes around and winning over New South Wales rugby fans again.

“Leadership is a job – I feel – where you don’t say, ‘this is how we’re going about things’. I think you use everyone’s knowledge and experience and even the younger guys coming in, I’ll be using their help as well. Our focus as a group is quite clear and it’s a matter of me demonstrating that to the highest level,” he said.

ARU CEO, Bill Pulver and Waratahs CEO Jason Allen in discussion at the launch.

ARU CEO, Bill Pulver and Waratahs CEO Jason Allen in discussion at the launch.

There were four or five names on the shortlist who were all sounded out about the captaincy but after discussions with all of them, Cheika said a clear picture started to emerge.

“I spoke to each one of them about the other people I was considering and tried to get an idea of (…) where the inspiration lay,” he said.

“I think a guy like Dave who’s come through Western Sydney, come through Sydney club rugby, earned his stripes and is perhaps not the flashiest but went on to represent Australia, has earned the right to captain his state.”

That it took so long for Cheika to make his decision highlights the wealth of experience within the squad and while some teams opt for co-captains or leadership groups, the old-school Cheika favours having a sole, dedicated leader.

“Let’s not get grey between leadership being almost like a union. It’s not a measure on how the team is performing; the leader leads how the team is performing,” he said.

After attending to commitments at the season launch, one of Dennis’ first tasks, says Cheika, will be to select his own vice-captain.