Ryan James has revealed how the legacy of club legends Preston Campbell and Luke Bailey on and off-field has inspired his own leadership in the wake of the 26-year-old forward being appointed as sole Gold Coast captain for 2018.
James shared the role with Kevin Proctor last year until the Kiwi international had the honour taken away from him for an alcohol-related off-field incident.
James, who was born on the Gold Coast and attended Palm Beach Currumbin High, watched Campbell debut when he was in kindergarten and said he was privileged to play two years of NRL with him where he learned about what it meant to be a true leader.
“Preston was my first roommate and I learned so much from him off the field and on the field, but mostly off the field with how he carries himself and the way people around the community perceive him and see him,” James told NRL.com.
“He started the Indigenous All Stars and to see first-hand what he has done with the community, being Indigenous myself, and going out to Indigenous communities with him… is amazing.
“I got choked up the other day just speaking about him.”
James said that as captain, he wanted to continue Campbell’s legacy and make the Gold Coast club a great one.
“He was so loyal to this club and wanted to see his career out here and make the Gold Coast what it is,” James said
“Being from the Gold Coast, I want to do the same. Preston doesn’t say too much, but everything he does he does with dignity.”
James said he learned plenty about leadership from a wide selection of former Titans including Scott Prince, Nathan Friend, Mark Minichiello and Luke Douglas, but singled out former Test prop Luke Bailey as a guiding light.
“Luke was a mentor to me and coming into first grade pretty young he tucked me under his wing and I am always very thankful to him,” James said.
“I watched him at training and he was always winning things and making sure he did the little things that stats aren’t marked on.
“Luke did things the team appreciated, and that is what I am trying to do now.”
Titans coach Garth Brennan said James epitomised what the Gold Coast Titans were about and “ticks all the boxes” as captain of the club.
“He is a Gold Coast local. He loves the club, he’s passionate about the club, he is a very talented footballer as well and he has the respect of his peers,” Brennan said.
Brennan said he had watched James closely in pre-season and was convinced the players would play for him.
“He’s not a dictator style of captain… and he’s not going to ask players to do something he won’t do himself and that is what a good leader is,” he said.
James, signed until the end of 2020, said the experience he gained last year in the role would put him in good stead and that he was “honoured and proud” to be sole captain.
He said the “off-field dramas” of last year were behind the club and with a new coach and new owners he was confident the Titans were heading in the right direction.
James added he would lean on the leaders already at the club and would aim to lead by example and not through words.
Scott Sattler was the football manager when the Titans signed James in 2007 along with other local 16, 17 and 18-year-olds such as Bodene Thompson, Ryan Simpkins, Shannon Walker, Will Matthews and David Mead with the goal to create a home-grown, quality under 20s team going into 2008 and subsequent years.
A decade on, and despite being through a lot of tough times at the Titans, James has played 115 games for the club and has spoken of his desire to be a Titan for life.
Sattler said it was right that the loyalty James had shown the club had been returned and rewarded.
“Ryan could have gone to other clubs when the Titans’ values and integrity were being questioned but he stayed firm and believed in the region and believed in the club,” Sattler said.
“That’s the reason why he needs to be captain and it is no surprise to me he has retained it.
“Ryan was an outstanding junior in 2007. He was big, mobile and aggressive, but what I liked about Ryan was that he had a really mature head on his shoulders and came from a really strong family foundation.
“He was identified, along with a lot of other players, as what we called 10-year Titans with the goal that they played a decade of NRL with the club.
“Ryan will cruise to 200 NRL games easily for the club because he is a good trainer and has a great attitude.”