Higginbotham heads back to the future

Super Rugby
by Sam Phillips

In taking the captaincy reins at Ballymore, Scott Higginbotham is going back to the future.

Rewind five years to 2013 and Higginbotham found himself in a near identical situation.

With regular Rebels captain Gareth Delve out injured, Higginbotham was thrown into the deep end in his first year at the club and asked to lead a team with little experience and no track record of success.

The star No. 8 admits it took 18 months to find his feet but once he did, he led Melbourne to a franchise-best seven Super Rugby wins in 2015.

Now, with the Reds' Super Rugby opener against Melbourne just three sleeps away, Higginbotham is once again charged with leading an incredibly inexperienced squad with no track record of success out of the cellar.

"I think a lot of people make the mistake of trying to do too much, trying to influence the team too much - especially on the field," Higginbotham said of the challenge captaincy presents.

"I think that's what I learned at the Rebels.

"In my last year at the Rebels as captain I really tried to fix that and that's what I want to bring here.

"A good captain doesn't put himself forward, I think it's about the other players and putting them forward rather than trying to do it all yourself."

For coach Brad Thorn, the captaincy appointment was a simple one.Brad Thorn has backed Higginbotham to lead the Reds. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley"He's a great man, a great Queensland and he has had success here in the past," Thorn said at the club's captaincy announcement.

"He's a humble guy, he has a real good connection with both the young and the old in the team and he's a very good footballer.

"It feels like the right fit.

"Samu and Slips have done good jobs before but I think Higgers is the right man for the job and I am excited to have him lead in that role.

"I liked what I saw when he was down at the Rebels - it brought the best out of him and the team seemed to gel around him when he captained.

"He's got a really good way with the guys."

In Higginbotham's eyes, taking the lead was natural, given his wealth of experience amongst a group of players that are largely still finding their way.Higginbotham learned what it takes to be a leader in Melbourne. Photo: Getty Images"Being this age and with the amount of footy that I have played - especially compared to a lot of the other guys in the majority of the squad at the Reds - you try to see yourself in that leadership role," Higginbotham said.

"You have that experience so you need to lead if you really want the other blokes around you to really pick up and perform at the highest level."

The Reds were already Australian Conference underdogs when they were set to have Karmichael Hunt and Izaia Perese in their starting XV but with the former's future under a cloud and the latter sidelined until at least early April, testing times lie ahead.

Higginbotham has faith in the players that will fill those sizeable holes and he puts that down to solidarity.

"You've got to start somewhere and I think there are some good young players coming through," he said.

"They have spent a lot of time with Thorny at Queensland Country and Reds U20s so he has had a good chunk of time with them.

"They're already getting that taste of what it takes - what sort of training it takes - to play at that top level.

"We will go into the first round with the confidence of how we have come together as a team over the last two or three months, how we have gelled and our mateship together, as a group."

The Reds take on the Rebels in their Super Rugby season opener at AAMI Park on Friday night, kicking off at 7:45pm AEDT, broadcast LIVE on FOX SPORTS.