It was in the close season, shortly before Christmas last year, that the decision to have a leadership team, with a joint captaincy, was made by Head Coach, Ian Watson, and it was early in the New Year that Mark Flanagan was given the news that he, alongside Lee Mossop, was to be one of the pair.
Flanagan, sponsored by Sparta Lightning Services, said: “Ian called me into his office to explain what he was considering doing. I was really pleased and thought the it was a really good idea.
Having been vice-captain over the previous two seasons, he was not absolutely surprised to learn of his inclusion in the group, but nor was he at all disappointed at not having been singled out as sole captain of the side.
“We have a wealth of leadership talent within the squad and Ian thought that this was a way to tap into it, regardless of individual personalities, where the collective voice of the group gives confidence to each of us. Last year we had been a bit lacking in this department.
“It’s good that we are all able to bounce off one another and discuss things through. We regularly have meetings with the coaching staff, to discuss, for example, what is going to be happening in training over the next month, so that we can support this.
“This, we can then filter down through to the rest of the squad, so that the coaches get the best out of us all.”
Now, as we come to the end of the regular season, Flanagan is able to look back and assess the impact that the arrangement has brought.
“Over the course of the season, as a team, we have had to handle a bit of adversity which I think we did well. We were able to put it into some context, and relay the thoughts of the coaching staff, so that everyone in the squad had a full understanding of the situation.
“In addition, with having a leadership group, as opposed to a single captain, it helps breed leadership and responsibility throughout the whole group. It is apparent to the whole squad that the three of us are accountable for our actions, and this sets the marker for everyone else to measure up to that.
“Hopefully when the three of us have retired, we will have set the standard for the younger members to continue the culture we have started, and then pass it on to the next generation of players coming through.”
In his role of vice-captain Tyrone McCarthy has his own specific areas of responsibility, whereas for Mark and Lee they share the same role, in tandem.
“We are both heading up the captaincy together on the field, so we both speak to the team when we have scored a try, or leaked one, and then try to inspire the group by our own example. We also have to have words with the odd individual, when that is needed, or perk the lads up at other times. These are things which are more effectively done by two rather than just one person.
“Leading the team out at the start of the game is a role we have alternated on a weekly basis, whilst at training the pair of us can put ourselves about in driving up the standards.”
Now, with the team all set to compete in the Qualifiers once again, over the final part of the season, the fact that at least one of the leadership group, Mark himself, has had experience of this competition a couple of years ago, could also prove crucial in helping the group through it.
Watch highlights from the Red Devils last outing against Leeds Rhinos below: