Tahs rally behind Rocky
Sacked as Australian captain just weeks short of the 2011 World Cup, Rocky Elsom has been given the unanimous support of his Waratahs teammates, including 12 Wallabies, to lead the NSW franchise in 2012.
Despite his demotion in favour of James Horwill and having earned the ire of Brumbies faithful in his injury-ravaged two seasons in the nation's capital, coach Michael Foley said public popularity had no part in a stringent appointment process in which employees in all facets of the NSW franchise were canvassed.
''All we can worry about is the way that we see 'Rock' and the perception our players have of him,'' Foley said.
''And our players have been captained by him in a national side, played beside him and they are totally supportive of him as the captain. It was an easy decision.
''I think people need to know that from a player's point of view in terms of the captain, they identify with the values he has as a person. Otherwise, there is no reason for them and absolutely no compulsion to support him. They know him as a bloke, they know what it's like to play next to him and they unanimously said he was the man they thought could do the job best. It's pretty straight forward.''
The 28-year-old was given the unanimous support of the coaching staff and even the board, with whom tensions arose during Elsom's contracting process last year.
Elsom's perceived disinterest in the Brumbies while undergoing rehabilitation for an ongoing hamstring injury had many fans happy to see the back of him in Canberra and critics questioning whether he was fit to lead the Wallabies. But Elsom said he was just as frustrated as the fans and officials.
''It was difficult for both of us [me and the Brumbies] being in Canberra in that it was very unclear what was going on with my hamstring at the time and I couldn't play that second season,'' Elsom said.
''And in my one game back I tore my syndesmosis.
''And that's not great luck. But I've had the surgery I required and I feel good.''
Despite that experience and his very public demotion in favour of James Horwill, Elsom said he didn't have to be asked twice to take on the Waratahs captaincy, a role he first filled in 2007.
''I wasn't reluctant,'' Elsom said.
''It's a job I'm really happy to be doing and as long as you see it like that, as a job and that there's a fair bit of work that needs to be done, it's going to be fine. I like being involved in the direction of the team, that's for sure. I wasn't able to do that in Canberra.''
And while he is the new leader of the Waratahs, don't expect the breakaway to be their sole public face. Public and media duties will be shared among the eight-man leadership group that includes Wallabies Drew Mitchell, Dan Vickerman, Berrick Barnes, Benn Robinson, Rob Horne and Tatafu Polota-Nau.
''I don't know that if there was a press conference that I'd be the No1 bloke you'd want to have up there,'' Elsom said.
''So sharing that aspect makes sense.''
Foley agreed, explaining it was a matter the leadership group felt would best be carried out in a shared arrangement. Just as the captaincy will be on the field with Elsom unavailable for at least the first round of the Super Rugby season.
''In the role of the captain there's the role you're doing on and off the field during the season, and there's no reason why those things have to be separated. But the very nature of the season and the extension, you need somebody to be able to step in and do the job as well as the one guy that you appoint,'' Foley said.
''And for us, we're fortunate with the leadership group we have and the senior players, there are a number of players who could get in there and do for us.''