Peter Smith: Why Kallum Watkins is ideal choice for Leeds Rhinos' captaincy

KALLUM WATKINS' appointment as Leeds Rhinos' captain was a surprise to some fans - although the fact the club used his image on the front of their 2018 handbook was a clue.

WINNER: Leeds Rhinos' Kallum Watkins celebrates scoring his side's second try ion last year's Grand Final at Old Trafford against Castleford Tigers. Picture: Richard Sellers/PA

Coach Brian McDermott has made a good choice.

The England centre ticks all the boxes. He may be softly spoken, but is passionate about the club and not shy about getting his point across.

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At just 26, he has vast experience after 10 years in Leeds’ senior squad and has won every available honour at club level.

As a centre, Watkins is on the field throughout games - he played every minute of all Leeds’ 32 matches in 2016 - and he is well-respected and popular among the squad.

It is a high-profile position, but Watkins proved he can handle the pressure of a new, difficult role when he took over the goal kicking last season, landing a series of pressure kicks, including three at Old Trafford.

Watkins spent seven seasons playing under the sport’s greatest-ever captain, Kevin Sinfield and has other leaders around him in the squad, the likes of Ryan Hall, Stevie Ward, Adam Cuthbertson and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.

Ward’s time as skipper will come, though Watkins could have at least another six years at the top level.

Ward also has all the hallmarks of an outstanding captain, but - after his recent injury issues - will benefit from going about his business outside the spotlight the captaincy attracts.