Leeds Rhinos have confirmed forward Stevie Ward as the club’s new captain, following the departure of Trent Merrin.
Australian Merrin became skipper mid-way through last season after Kallum Watkins left the club to join Gold Coast Titans in Australia.
Merrin himself, however, has now also returned down under, after signing for St George Illawarra Dragons.
Ward will now take over as he enters his ninth season in the Rhinos’ first team, with whom he has won two Grand Finals and a League Leaders Shield.
His career has been blighted by injury, with the 26-year-old managing just 23 appearances in the past two seasons, however he has been commended for speaking out about his difficulties with mental health during his time on the sidelines.
Leeds head coach Richard Agar told the club website: “Stevie thoroughly deserves this accolade and I know he will do an outstanding job.
“He has shown great maturity in recent years in how he has dealt with adversity.
“We saw at the end of last season, the impact he had on our team on the field and I am looking forward to seeing him lead the side out on Boxing Day morning.”