PARRAMATTA coach Ricky Stuart is contemplating naming co-captains at the club for the first time in 14 years because of a lack of experienced leaders on his playing roster.
Fairfax Media understands Tim Mannah - who returned to training on Tuesday just a day after farewelling his brother Jon - Reni Maitua, Ben Smith, Jarryd Hayne and Matt Keating are in the running to lead the side. Mannah is the only one to have experienced the role. He led the side in round two last year against the Warriors in the absence of Nathan Hindmarsh.
Stuart is yet to decide on who or how many players will lead the side when the season kicks off in six weeks' time, but is giving serious thought to appointing co-captains. Not since Jarrod McCracken and Dean Pay, who shared the role for two years under Brian Smith from 1998, have the Eels had more than one captain.
Stuart is a traditionalist when it comes to captaincy, having opted for one captain throughout his coaching career. "There is room for your co-captain," Stuart said. "It's something you can look at. It's something that I've always preferred not to go with, but that's not to say I'm not going to do it this time."
While Mannah is one of the frontrunners for the job, Stuart is in no hurry to appoint a skipper despite being eight days away from their first trial against Newcastle in Armidale.
"There's a number of candidates there and it's a really big decision," Stuart said. "I haven't rushed into it and I haven't felt that I have to rush into it. I haven't seen it as a decision I had to make in a certain amount of time. I've been talking to a number of people here in the organisation about their opinion. I'll make that decision when I'm comfortable with it."
Mannah was back to training on Tuesday to be alongside his friends after Jon's funeral on Monday. The Eels have rallied behind the 24-year-old in a show of strength that has touched their new leader.
"I think it's a great sign the fact he wanted to be back here so soon," Stuart said. "He was with his family and the church for a few days while he was grieving, then coming back and seeing he wanted to be around his mates, it's a really good sign that he's got a lot of good friends here.
"It's been a very difficult time for him and his family and friends, but the way he's handled it has been thoroughly professional. He's handled it with a lot of strength. The whole club was just very solid in support of Jon and the whole family, which you would expect. For me to see the club at first hand supporting one of their own, it's a great sign that there's a lot of spirit in this place."