It was a sign of how much the Australian captaincy meant to Greg Inglis that he fronted a media conference on Tuesday to declare he did not intend to stand down from the role knowing the decision was about to be taken from his hands.
Despite Inglis’s heartfelt and genuine plea to retain the job he had just been appointed to fulfill four hours before being charged with drink driving at 2.15pm on Monday, the NRL and Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga had little choice but to suspend him from the upcoming Tests against New Zealand and Tonga.
Inglis was one of the players involved in establishing a higher set of standards for Australian players under Meninga and he had failed those when he had returned a blood alcohol reading of 0.085 after being pulled over for speeding on his way home to Sydney from the Koori Knockout at Dubbo.
The 31-year-old knew that when he walked out of Lithgow Police Station after being handed a November 4 court appearance but he hoped the work he had done in the community and his off-field record during 14 NRL seasons would count in his favour.
Comparisons with penalties previously handed out to Andrew Fifita, Semi Radradra and Josh Papalii are unfair to Inglis, who is a proud indigenous role model and had chosen to form a team featuring seven players under the age of 18 to play at the Koori Knockout rather than turn out for one of the established sides who wanted his services.
With the Wall Street Warriors being knocked out early in the tournament, Inglis had stayed on to use his profile to promote the game and positive messages about health and education.
He had done a phone interview with 2GB’s Ray Hadley at 11.45pm on Monday before heading off for Sydney in the belief he was able to drive after having finished his last drink about 1am.
However, the reality is role models need to be even more accountable and Inglis was always going to pay a high price for his indiscretion as it would have sent a poor message to others if an exception had been made for him.
Greg Inglis news conference
The Koori Knockout had been an alcohol-free event and to have the first indigenous Australian captain since Arthur Beetson escape severe punishment for drink driving would have been a poor message from the game.
Few would understand better than Inglis and no one would be hurting more than the Rabbitohs superstar but he accepted his fate with the grace and dignity of a leader, once advised of the decision.
There was no doubt he was devastated to lose the honour after saying: :I was ecstatic, over the moon about it."
While Sydney Roosters and NSW State of Origin captain Boyd Cordner will take over the role for the Test against the Kiwis on October 13 and the October 20 Test against Tonga, Inglis’s suspension does not mean he won’t be considered for the job in the future.
Cordner had acknowledged before the Roosters’ preliminary final defeat of Souths that Inglis was the best candidate for the job and he is set to retain the Queensland and Rabbitohs jobs next season.
"I have let a lot of people down because of where I stand in the game as a proud indigenous role model, and I think I have let a lot of kids down and a lot of people down in that community," Inglis told reporters at Redfern Oval just two hours before his suspension was announced.
However, the person he has let down most is himself and Inglis was asked at the press conference about his mental state.
"This has got nothing to do with my mental health," he said. "It has got everything to do with me making one of those stupid mistakes that I shouldn’t have done. That is the bottom line of it.
"I am standing here before you to put my hand up knowing that I did make a mistake. I am very sorry, very apologetic and I will continue to lead in my community and I will learn from this mistake. It definitely won’t happen again."