HE insists he's merely keeping it warm but Dragons workhorse Cameron McInnes is proving a natural in the captaincy of the joint-venture this season.
McInnes first had the c next to his name last season as Gareth Widdop battled injury and has taken the job on long-term in 2019 with his regular skipper sidelined by shoulder surgery.
It's a role he's currently sharing with veteran prop James Graham but, at just 25, McInnes shapes as the long-term successor when Widdop departs at season's end.
It's an indicator of how important he's become to the club that took a punt on turning him from bench understudy to 80-minute ironman.
"I definitely enjoy the role and it's a big honour but, in terms of things changing, not much has," McInnes said.
"The only thing is the toss before the game and dealing with the refs a bit more during the game.
"We have a lot of great leaders in the team and guys who've played high level footy with Tyson Frizell, James Graham, Ben Hunt and those sort of guys.
"In terms of talking on the field I don't have to say too much, I just try and play footy each week with as much energy as I can. That's how I'm trying to lead.
"I know I'm just warming the spot until we get our skipper back in Gaz. We're just trying to win as many games as we can so when he comes back we can put him in a good position."
The personal growth is why he had no hesitation in penning a contract extension with the club prior to last season, keeping him in Wollongong until the end of 2021.
The decision has been made easier by the unwavering faith of coach Paul McGregor, who dubbed McInnes the best hooker in NSW prior to season kickoff.
McGregor was also quick to scupper suggestions that Corey Norman's arrival could see Ben Hunt shifted to the hooking role at the expense of McInnes.
It's something McInnes is determined to repay as his career at the club rolls on.
"It's everything as a player to have the coach think so highly of you," he said.
"When I came from Souths I was still only young but the Dragons, and particularly Mary, took a big chance on me because I was really unproven. They gave me the opportunity to be the No. 9 and have really helped me grow.
"I think every year at the Dragons I've improved and that's solely due to the faith they've given me to work through things and make some mistakes. Not every young player gets that.
"It's all about winning now and that's the reality of the job we do but I've been able to grow and develop with a cub that really believes in me.
"I feel really fortunate and lucky that's why I want to do anything I can for the club on and off field."
While he still refers to himself as a stand-in skipper, he's setting a high bar for his side, running a critical eye over last week's gritty loss to the Roosters on Anzac Day.
"We expect to compete against every single team for the full 80 and be in the game," he said.
"The way we started the game and the mentality we had just wasn't good enough, whoever we were playing against, let alone one of the competition leaders.
"It was a big occasion and we just weren't on for that whole first 40 minutes. Going forward every week we need to make sure we're switched on right from the start."