Friend a chance to lead All Star cast
The last time Jake Friend played in a representative side, he was flanked by three other NRL club captains, but when he runs out for the World All Stars in Newcastle next February, he will be the only current skipper in the side.
The Roosters captain was named starting hooker in Mal Meninga's side for the February 10 showpiece event and is a strong candidate to lead the side onto the park with the 'C' next to his name.
Fresh from the Four Nations tour that saw him make his Kangaroos debut, Friend said the All Stars captaincy wasn't something he had considered, and was more focused on getting to play alongside some of the NRL's most talented stars.
"It's a pretty awesome team and there are some big players in there," Friend told media at the team announcement at Rugby League Central on Wednesday morning.
"I'm really looking forward to gelling with some new guys and learning some things off some different players. I got to tour and you learn so much off tours like that so I'm sure this week will be no different."
Friend made his international debut off the bench in the Four Nations opener against Scotland which the Kangaroos won 54-12, and while he didn't feature after that, the 26-year-old still cherished every moment of the tour.
"It was the trip of a lifetime, and to get a debut is something I've been trying and striving for my whole career. It's something I've always wanted to do," he said.
"I was pretty proud to get a game over there. I've heard that blokes have been [on tour] and not played. I was lucky enough that Mal gave everyone a game.
"It was an awesome experience – not just the game itself – but the whole tour. It was a lot of hard work, but a lot of fun."
Fresh from his first year as stand-alone Roosters skipper, the 2016 Jack Gibson Medallist said the Four Nations tour not only helped him develop as a player, but he also had the opportunity to study how some of the game's finest leaders operate.
With the likes of Kangaroos, Maroons and Storm skipper Cameron Smith, as well as Cowboys co-captain Johnathan Thurston rallying the troops in the UK, Friend said he picked up some valuable lessons from the best in the business.
"You learn off blokes like 'Smithy' and 'JT' and Cooper Cronk and blokes that have been around for so long and are at the top of their games and have been for so long. It's good to experience how they prepare and do their thing," he said.
"Just seeing how they interact or pump boys up for games and that sort of stuff – even just how they carry themselves – you can learn a lot from those tours, and I did. I'll try to use some of the stuff that we did over there back at the Roosters.
"I only played one game, but the boys that played did really well and I think that's because of the culture that Mal created.
"It's something that we talk about a lot in footy and it's something that we want to get right at the Roosters this year to get back to the top of the ladder.
"It was a tough year and it didn't go our way, but I think for us, we stuck together and we didn't go and blame this bloke or that bloke. There was no blame game and we were all in it together.
"It didn't go how we wanted it to and it's on us now to train hard in the pre-season and prove ourselves next year."
Friend admitted he wasn't 100 per cent sure whether he would stay on as stand-alone skipper or if the Roosters would revert back to a co-captaincy model, but indicated he would prefer the first option.
The nuggety No.9 said no matter what happened, he could rely on senior players like Mitchell Pearce, Boyd Cordner and others for advice.
"I enjoyed the role on my own last year," he replied when asked about the captaincy.
"I'm not sure 100 per cent sure what we're doing this year, but either way… there are blokes in our team who might not have the 'C' next to their names, but they're leaders.
"We've got a couple of boys who have been around for a few years now and most decisions and things that I'm thinking are bounced off them anyway.
"It's something that I hope to keep improving on and I'm looking to hopefully getting a few more wins next year."
This article first appeared on NRL.COM