Interim coach Ryan Carr insists he had no reservations selecting Jack de Belin to captain St George Illawarra in round 13, saying the middle forward's form made him the obvious choice.
Regular skipper Ben Hunt is missing from Thursday night's clash with the Dolphins through State of Origin duty, so Carr needed to look elsewhere for leadership options in his second game at the helm.
The coach landed on de Belin in a decision that sparked debate; the former NSW forward was stood down from the NRL for two-and-a-half years after being charged over the alleged rape of a woman in a north Wollongong unit in December 2018.
De Belin and co-accused Callan Sinclair were subject to two trials and other than the second acquitting the pair on one of six charges, both ended with deadlocked juries. The case was withdrawn in 2021, paving the way for de Belin's NRL return.
Ex-coach Anthony Griffin had considered de Belin for the captaincy shortly thereafter before the club backtracked. The match against the Dolphins will be his first time leading the Dragons since a trial game in 2017.
Promoted from assistant to head coach when Griffin was fired last week, Carr said he had no hesitation appointing de Belin his captain but was at pains to confirm the post was temporary.
"This is my first year at the club, so what's happened previously is not for me to comment on. All I can comment on is what we've done over the past month and in particular, the last seven days," Carr said.
"Ben Hunt is our captain, he's our club captain, through Origin (he is unavailable), we can't help that. We've just got to move on for this week, We picked the person we feel can do the best job for the team on the field this week."
Carr was adamant any backlash to the decision would not distract the Dragons, who upset the Sydney Roosters last week and are aiming for their first back-to-back wins of the season.
"We're really focused on us as a team and living inside our own four walls and focusing on what we can control," he said.
At 32, de Belin is the most experienced player the Dragons will field against the Dolphins, with other captaincy options Blake Lawrie and Jaydn Su'A missing the game through injury.
De Belin has averaged 45 tackles and 152 run metres per game over the past four weeks and had been considered a chance for an Origin recall after injuries depleted the Blues' forward options. Carr believed de Belin's form made him a natural captaincy choice.
"We've got a relatively young squad, as you can see on paper," Carr said.
"You can tell by his form over the past month in particular, how hard he's trying for this team, this club. He puts his body on the line, wears his heart on his sleeve.
"The boys follow him through his performance so that was the reason."
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