New Brumbies skipper Sam Carter says co-captain Christian Lealiifano is the team’s ‘soul’

Sam Carter was revealed as a co-captain at the Brumbies’ 2017 season launch. Photo: Karleen Minney Christian Lealiifano will be a co-captain from the sidelines as he continues treatment for leukaemia. Photo: Brendon Thorne
Nanjing Night Net

New ACT Brumbies skipper Sam Carter says Christian Lealiifano is still the “soul of the team”, adding the respected flyhalf will play a crucial role this year even if he is unable to make a comeback.

Carter and Lealiifano were unveiled on Wednesday as the Brumbies’ new co-captaincy duo for the Super Rugby season, with Carter stepping into the leadership job for the first time since he was a schoolboy.

Lealiifano is set to take on a mentoring role and could join the coaching staff as a temporary assistant while he continues his treatment for leukaemia.

He is nearing the end of a 100-day stint in Melbourne, where he has been at hospital twice per week after having a bone-marrow transplant in November.

Lealiifano will then return to Canberra but it’s unlikely doctors will allow him to start training until at least six months after his operation.

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham is optimistic about Lealiifano’s chances of playing in the back half of the club’s Super Rugby campaign.

But Carter says Lealiifano is the team’s guiding voice whether he’s on the field or in the stands and that his presence will add extra motivation for the players this year.

​”Christian is a massive part of this organisation, he’s the soul of the team really,” Carter said.

“Having him provides massive perspective for pretty much the whole team. He comes in towards the end of weeks and he lifts the energy because he’s just got an infectious attitude.

“So having him around is only going to help us this season. I’ll do all the on-field stuff until he’s right to play again, but any bit of experience I can always go to him. All the boys respect him.

“I don’t see it as a problem, I see it as a massive plus for us.”

It is hoped Lealiifano will return to Canberra in the coming weeks but he will not be able to start full training until at least April.

The 29-year-old is on the Brumbies’ roster as a contracted player but Larkham has recruited Wharenui Hawera as a flyhalf option.

Lealiifano will likely become back line assistant coach as he eases his way back into the Super Rugby environment.

​”Christian has had a very big hand in the pre-season so far and been trying to get to Canberra as much as possible,” Larkham said.

“He spent a lot of time thinking about the program … he was obviously our co-captain [with Stephen Moore] last year so it made sense to keep him on board.

“He definitely wants to be around and the fact he wasn’t [at the season launch on Wednesday] was very difficult for him.

“He wants to help out with the coaching and on the field. There’s a noticeable lift whenever Christian is here.

“He’s a motivator. He’s got immense respect from the players … I’m always optimistic and I’d like to see him right for the [Super Rugby] finals.

“Realistically, it would just be good to see him training again. It’s obviously life changing what he’s gone through and knocked his body around.

“Mentally it’s probably changed his perspective a bit, too, but he is desperate to get out on the rugby paddock.”

SUPER RUGBY PRE-SEASON

Saturday: ACT Brumbies v NSW Waratahs at Mudgee, 6pm.

February 11-12: Brisbane Global 10s at Suncorp Stadium.

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