The Sydney Swans have blown up their co-captaincy tradition and surprisingly returned to a standalone leader.
The Swans revealed on Tuesday that veterans Luke Parker and Dane Rampe would be handing in their skipper badges and Callum Mills would be installed as the sole captain.
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It’s a peculiar call given Mills was widely criticised at the end of last year when he was involved in a wrestling incident on the club’s ‘Mad Monday’ that resulted in shoulder surgery.
Mills damaged his rotator cuff while wrestling teammate Jacob Konstanty and, at the time, it was thought he could even be stripped of his co-captaincy title.
The injury will keep him out of the first six weeks of the 2024 season, and quite possibly more.
An embarrassed Mills had to face the media after the incident. Credit: @sydneyeswans
After the incident, an embarrassed Mills faced the media in October with his arm in a sling for a full mea culpa.
“This is not a reflection of the captain I aspired to be and I’m gutted that this will potentially put the start of my season at risk,” Mills said.
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“I made a bad mistake. I put myself at risk and I take full responsibility.
“One thing I do want to assure people is, I’m doing everything I possibly can to get back as quick as possible.”
The Swans have largely had a co-captaincy model throughout the 21st century.
And it has served them well, too, with Barry Hall, Leo Barry and Brett Kirk the co-captains during their glory years when they played in back-to-back grand finals in 2005 and 2006 and broke a 72-year premiership drought.
The co-captaincy model was also in play in 2012 when Adam Goodes and Jarrad McVeigh led Sydney to another premiership and it wasn’t until 2017 when they decided to run with a standalone skipper in Josh Kennedy.
That was short-lived, however, and they went back to their trifecta of captains with Rampe and Parker joining Kennedy in 2019 and then Mills replacing Kennedy in 2022.
Sydney Swans football manager Leon Cameron said Mills was the standout choice to lead the team into the future.
“Callum is one of the hardest working players at the club and is a natural-born leader,” Cameron said.
“He is a fantastic young man and is extremely invested in the success of this football club.”
But fans were baffled by the call given Mills’ self-inflicted, long-term injury.
“Seems a strange decision to make him captain considering he’s missing half the season,” one wrote on social media after the Swans tweeted the news.
“Hopefully he can shoulder the responsibility on his own,” another fan joked.
“What?! Hope he’s learnt his lesson,” another said.
Coach John Longmire revealed it was Rampe who pushed for Mills.
“I first met Callum when he was in the Academy and he was a standout even at that young age and had genuine leadership potential,” Longmire said.
“We feel as though the time is right for Callum to be the sole captain and lead the group going forward.”
Mills said it was “an absolute honour to captain” the club he grew up supporting.
“(I) am a proud New South Welshman, so having the opportunity to lead this great club is not lost on me,” Mills said.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed co-captaining with Dane and Luke, their leadership has shaped the club to what it is today and I will still be learning from them going forward.
“I cannot wait to get back to full fitness and run out with my teammates to the roar of an SCG crowd. We have a great squad, and I’m really excited about what we can achieve this season.”