The inspiring leadership that emerged from Izack Rodda's darkest hour

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

If a leader's true colours are revealed under the greatest pressure, Izack Rodda shone most brightly in his darkest hour.

He may not have had the "C" beside his name in Queensland's Super Rugby season-opener but when Rodda lined up for the Reds in Dunedin earlier this year just a day after the death of his father, he underlined his qualities as a leader of men.

Playing for Queensland means everything to the strapping back-rower born in NSW and he felt the best way to honour his father John, was to take the field.

Rodda will captain the Reds against the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday night with regular leader Samu Kerevi sidelined under the Wallabies' workload management policy.

Kerevi hailed Rodda's efforts in Dunedin earlier this year and the 22-year-old hopes the rest of his teammates were also inspired.

"It was definitely tough circumstances doing that so quick after but for me, it just felt like the right thing to do," Rodda said of playing.

"My dad always supported me through sport and always wanted me to play, so I thought it was a good thing for his memory for me to play and I hope the boys can take something from that when times are hard, that the boys here will always be there for you and there to support you.

"Hopefully it helps them if anything like that happens to them in the future, they have the strength and know that we're going to be here for them."

Rodda gifted his first Wallabies jersey to his mother Donna for the sacrifices she made for his sporting career early in his youth and is motivated heavily by family.

He and fellow Reds forward Lukhan Salakaia-Loto have become even closer in the past year after both lost their fathers and both players wear a reminder during games, with "DAD" etched on the tape on their wrists.

"We both wear that as a reminder of what we've lost and what we play for, which is family," Rodda said.

"We're very close mates and we've both gone through a similar thing very close to one another which has probably brought us even closer together."

Reds coach Brad Thorn has praised the growth of both men this year and had nominated both as possible leaders earlier this year when Kerevi was set to be rested during the South African tour.

Thorn has also been a sounding board for both men. After losing his own father - a man he nominated as his "best mate" when just 19, the Reds mentor is sensitive to the feelings of both Rodda and Salakaia-Loto and keen to continue to support their growth as leaders as well as players.

Lukhan Salakaia-Loto (right) and Izack Rodda (left), both write the word "DAD" on their wrist strapping before each match. Photo: RUGBY.com.au/Stuart Walmsley

"It was just tough," Thorn said of dealing with his father's death.

"Dad was my best mate. I was just super thankful that god gave me my dad for almost 20 years. I was about to turn 20, so I had almost 20 years where he just poured goodness into me.

"I'm very careful because I'm respecting people's space but they know that they can come (and talk to me)."

Rodda said Thorn had been a good sounding board.

"He had that happen to him at a young age and he's definitely been there for me and Lukhan through this whole process and been very understanding and supportive towards us and what we're going through," Rodda said.

All those experiences will shape Rodda as a leader, although the Lismore junior has long had a burning desire to captain the Reds.

"It's a huge honour to be captain of Queensland.

"It's been my dream ever since coming up to Ipswich (Grammar) and starting playing rugby in Queensland.

"I'm humbled to get the opportunity."

Izsck Rodda will be back in the Reds' starting XV this week. Photo: Getty Images

While he grew up south of the border, the 120kg giant is a passionate Queenslander when it comes to rugby and wearing the famous maroon jersey can't be underestimated.

"Queensland gave me my chance in rugby," he said.

"I wasn't really making it in NSW and the school took a chance on me and I came there.

"It was pretty much all she wrote from there. I just started progressing through the Queensland pathway and to the Reds.

"So I went from Queensland Schools to the U20s and then I made it to the Reds so I pretty much owe them everything."

With the Reds still a mathematical chance to make the finals, Rodda is refusing to write off their chances despite Queensland forced into mass changes for the Chiefs clash.

"If you look at the whole comp, the top eight is still very close and we just want to go out there and win every game that we can to try and give us the best chance to make the finals.

"If we win the rest of our games for the season, it should give us a good chance. If we're good enough to make it, we make it and if we're not, we don't.

"Last time we won was 2013 but I think we're such a tight squad.

"I don't think it really matters who we shift in and out, everyone's that close and they all have the same goals, so I think we'll be fine."

The Reds take on the Chiefs in Hamilton on Friday, May 25, kicking off at 5:30pm AEST, live on Fox Sports, Kayo Sports and via RUGBY.com.au radio.