Two props, two flankers and a scrumhalf have emerged as the leading candidates to take the ACT Brumbies captaincy reins this year as coach Dan McKellar weighs up his leadership options.
The Sunday Canberra Times understands McKellar will name unveil his new leader this week just days before the squad's first trial match and less than two weeks before the Super Rugby season-opener.
It is believed he will pick from a five-man shortlist, which boasts Wallabies props, Olympic Games hopefuls and two of the club's most experienced players.
Allan Alaalatoa and Scott Sio have cemented their place as Brumbies leaders in recent years, while Tom Cusack is a respected back-rower on the rise and Joe Powell and Lachlan McCaffrey are also being considered for the role.
Whoever gets the job will take on the tall task of trying to replace Christian Lealiifano, Sam Carter and David Pocock, who have all spent time as Brumbies captain in recent years.
The changing of the guard will start with a clash against the Melbourne Rebels in Albury on Friday night before turning attention to round one against the Queensland Reds in Canberra on January 31.
McKellar says he has confidence in the new breed, adding future captains to the leadership group in recent years to give them a chance to learn of Lealiifano, Carter and Pocock.
"We've done a lot of work to have guys ready to go [as captains], given them exposure and work with other guys in that position and having younger players step up," McKellar said.
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"There are guys there who are ready to step up and have had leadership responsibilities in the past. Those will increase in 2020, but they're ready."
Alaalatoa was voted the Australian Super Rugby player of the year for 2019, giving an indication to the respect he has built among peers since breaking into the Brumbies squad six years ago.
Sio has played 102 Super Rugby games and was the Wallabies first-choice loosehead prop at the past two World Cups, while Powell has been on the Test fringes for the past three years.
Both Alaalatoa (2023) and Sio (2022) have signed long-term deals to stay in Canberra and their secure futures could sway the leadership debate in their favour.
Cusack will juggle Brumbies duties with his bid to become a dual Olympian this year, eyeing selection in the Australian sevens team to play in Tokyo later this year.
McCaffrey will be one of the last players to arrive in Canberra ahead of the 2020 campaign following a stint in Japan, but he is considered a strong and respected voice within the squad.
Lealiifano, Pocock and Carter were established leaders because of their experience and their place in the team given they were three of the first players picked for every game.
McKellar has been weighing up workloads, game time and selection contention for his new choice.
Alaalatoa plays in arguably the hardest position on the field at tighthead prop and has never averaged more than 68 minutes per game during his career.
Sio shares the loosehead role with James Slipper and Cusack and McCaffrey are jostling for back-row positions after Pocock's departure.
Powell, a scrumhalf, could play the most minutes this year of all captaincy options.
"We always do a vote around who our players think the leaders are within our group. That carries a lot of weight, but it's not the final decision," McKellar said.
"There's a lot more that goes into being a captain than what the players would see. You take all of those things into account for who is going to be best for the job.
"Someone playing 10 or 15 minutes off the bench isn't going to be the best. It's going to be who's the best leader, who's the most respected."
SUPER RUGBY TRIAL
January 23: ACT Brumbies v Melbourne Rebels at Greenfield Park, Albury. Game one at 3.45pm, game two at 6.15pm.
SUPER RUGBY ROUND ONE
January 31: ACT Brumbies v Queensland Reds at Canberra Stadium, 7.15pm.