Fresh from a five-week holiday, a fit-looking Darren Lockyer returned to Broncos training on Monday, confident his first year as Brisbane captain would be a big year for the club.
After leading Australia on successful tours of Great Britain the past two seasons, Lockyer was the obvious choice to replace retired skipper Gorden Tallis as Broncos team leader.
The champion five-eighth is widely regarded as the best player in the world, has led Queensland and Australia and captained the Broncos in Tallis? absence on several occasions.
Still, following in the footsteps of greats like Allan Langer, Wally Lewis, Gene Miles and Kevin Walters is still a imposing task ? even for someone as brilliant as Lockyer.
?We have a great history with leaders at the Broncos, so it?s not something I take on lightly,? Lockyer said.
"I'm not a big talker. I'm not an aggressive player out there. On the field I just let my football do the talking.
?Obviously the biggest change will come off the field where Gorden has really taken so much pressure off everyone else the last few years. Fulfilling sponsorship and media commitments and just getting amongst the public more often will be a bit of a change for me but it?s something you have to do.?
Broncos boss Bruno Cullen said Lockyer?s appointment had been one of the most straightforward decision he had made in his role.
?He?s had experience leading teams at club, State of Origin and international level so once Gorden announced he was retiring, Darren was the obvious choice,? Mr Cullen said.
?He a fantastic player as we all know and he has proven in recent years that he is a great leader of men off the field as well. He sets a great example.?
As for Brisbane?s chances on the playing field in 2005, Lockyer said there was already ?a good feel? in the changerooms at Red Hill.
The return of Justin Hodges and Brad Thorn adds experience and quality to the forward pack and backline, with the continued development of youngsters like Karmichael Hunt, Neville Costigan and Tom Learoyd providing exciting times for Broncos fans.
"Thorny's back and that's a huge plus for us and Justin's back now too," he said.
"There's going to be a lot of guys vying for positions in the backline so that's always a good thing to have. I'm very confident about this year and if we have a good run with injuries anything can happen."
"I think the Broncos are definitely going to be in the top four this year and hopefully the big one."
With the entire squad back training coach Wayne Bennett will be looking to sharpen things up in a hurry, with the first trial match against Mebourne at Carrara just five weeks away. Brisbane will meet Canberra in Toowoomba before the season kicks-off with a blockbusting clash against the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium on March 13.Like