UQ student to co-captain Brisbane Broncos against Cowboys
Carrigan and playmaker Brodie Croft were handed the captaincy duties after club skipper Alex Glenn was ruled out of the round-one clash because of a hamstring injury.
While he admitted the circumstances around his appointment were unfortunate, Carrigan said he was excited to lead the team he grew up supporting as a boy.
“The whole team would love to have Lexie [Alex] out there, but this is definitely an exciting opportunity for me at this stage in my career,” Carrigan said.
“At the end of the day, I still have to perform my role for the team – I just get to run onto the field first.”
It’s a remarkable show of faith in the 22-year-old, who has featured in only 19 NRL games – 17 of which he has started off the bench.
Yet Broncos coach Anthony Seibold said the captaincy was a great reward for Carrigan, who he sees as an emerging leader at the club.
"He has been a leader in his age group for many years and is a great leader around the current group,” Seibold said.
"We don't have too many older players in our squad. We only have three over 30 and a couple aren't playing this week.
"It doesn't matter how old you are – you can be a leader in any walk of life, and he has done a really good job in pre-season."
Carrigan impressed in his debut NRL season last year, and relished the opportunity to put his leadership skills to the test when he captained the Broncos against the Gold Coast Titans in a pre-season trial match in February.
“[The Titans] match was an awesome experience, and I really enjoyed having a larger voice among the playing group,” Carrigan said.
“There’s a lot of expectation that comes with captaining the Broncos and I always looked up to the likes of Darren Lockyer, Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday and Justin Hodges.
“Then there are leaders like [Melbourne Storm captain] Cam Smith, who are so consistent and calm under pressure. That’s what I want to be like as a leader – someone who everyone wants to play with.”
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Now in his second NRL season, Carrigan appears to have cemented his position in the Broncos forward pack, and will wear the number 13 jersey – made famous by Parker – against the Cowboys on Friday night.
The Cowboys host the Broncos at Townsville’s new Queensland Country Bank Stadium for the first time, and Carrigan admits there’s no bigger occasion in club football than the famed Queensland derby.
“Everyone is really excited to kick off the season with a bang, and what better way to do that than against the Cowboys," Carrigan said.
"It’s been a long pre-season so the prospect of playing the Cowboys at their new stadium, in front of a packed house, is unreal. Can’t wait for Friday night!"
Carrigan is the first UQ student or alumnus to captain the Broncos.
The third-year physiotherapy student is breaking the mould of traditional rugby league players, juggling the extreme world of high-profile professional sport with a demanding university degree.
“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard to juggle professional sport and university,” Carrigan said.
“I started my degree as a full-time student, but I have scaled back to part-time since joining the first-grade side at the Broncos.
“Travelling and training during the NRL season makes it tough to attend classes, but UQ and the Broncos have a great partnership and there are a lot of support networks available for elite athletes."
Carrigan has received a UQ Sports Achievement Scholarship in 2019 and 2020, and was also awarded a UQ Blue – UQ’s highest sporting honour – in 2019. He is only the third student to win the award for rugby league since 1912.