TAULOGO Lalaga feared he had been dropped when his named wasn't called during the jersey presentation before the Wildfires' clash with Eastern Suburbs.
Dido Phil Bradford.
"Phil and I were looking at each other thinking 'are we not playing'," Lalaga said.
Their concerns were quickly allayed.
The reason coach Scott Coleman left the duo out was to announce they had been installed co-captains.
"It was a bit of a shock but it gave us both a lift," Lalaga said.
Lock Adam Edwards had been skipper but was dropped to the bench to freshen up. Edwards has again be named as a fresh reserve, leaving Lalaga, 22, and Bradford, 23, to lead the Wildfires against Western Sydney at Lidcome Oval on Saturday.
"There were a couple of other guys I could have chosen, but T (Lalaga) and Phil are the future," Coleman said. "That is what this program is all about. The two of them have been to every session, have worked hard and drive the intensity. Most importantly they want to learn and are really enthusiastic. They were natural choices."
Lalaga, a gun throughout juniors, had never captained a side.
"Against Easts, half the time I was looking around for the captain, forgetting that it was me," he said. "Nothing changes really, I just try my best to lead by example."
Lalaga was one of the Wildfires' best in the 31-21 loss to Easts. He lines up opposite NSW Waratah inside centre and former Parramatta Eel Tepai Moreroa on Saturday.
Coleman believes Lalaga, who spent three years in Sydney at Norths, has all the ingredients to forge his own professional career.
"He is definitely a player who could go to the next level," Coleman said. "He has a big physique, is very skillful and has a good rugby brain. If he had a good off-season and got fair dinkum, he could pick up a professional deal somewhere. He could get a gig in the NRC or overseas. He could even end up at the Tahs. He just has to get a little more hungry and look at his off-field stuff, his diet and weight training. He has all the ingredients to do it."
The Wildfires are fresh from the bye and head to Lidcome Oval chasing their first win of the season. The Two Blues beat cellar dwellers Penrith 39-29 last round to jump above the Wildfires into ninth spot.
"We have to match them up front first and foremost," Coleman said. "They are strong at the set piece and very physical. If we can retain the ball for six phases it should open up. We will look to play more attacking rugby than we have all year. Get out there, have a bit of fun and enjoy ourselves. The boys are up for it. The body language and chat has been positive at training. They are definitely excited for it."