IT WAS never part of Luke Lewis' plan to be stripped of his captaincy — just as it was never part of Ivan Cleary's plan for Lewis to decline a return.
The future of the captaincy role within the Panthers is unclear after full-time captain Luke Lewis (pictured) said he was uncertain about accepting Cleary's invitation to resume the captaincy once the State of Origin series ends just before the Panthers' round 18 bye in July.
After 12 seasons with the club, Lewis was elected captain of the Panthers for 2012 in January but when he returned from the NSW camp late last week he was told the title had temporarily been given to teammate Kevin Kingston.
"I love being captain and I'm very honoured to have the captaincy but I haven't come up with a decision," Lewis said. "I just want to see what's best for me and the team, see how we're doing in six to eight weeks and make my decision then."
He wasn't quite so relaxed about the decision immediately after the Panthers' win over the Sea Eagles, describing it as a "bit of a kick in the guts" and saying he was confident he could have handled the captaincy responsibility with his Origin duties.
But after speaking to Cleary for 90 minutes on Tuesday morning, Lewis said the pair had "resolved it all".
"A lot of weight has been taken off my shoulders," he said. "I can just sit back, look at my game, where I want to improve, what I need to do, not worry too much and let the football do the talking."
The 28-year-old was unsure whether or not his strong performance last Sunday, where he picked up his first try of the season, was helped by the fact he didn't have the burden of being captain.
Lewis said he believed in changing captains, Cleary was "doing what he thinks is best for the team" but admitted communication between them must improve.
"On both our parts, himself and myself getting together a lot more and talking and making sure we can get the team on the same page and working together — not against each other," Lewis said.
"We probably haven't been communicating as best as we could as a team and as coaching staff but it's their first time here and I know everyone will be on board with just making us a better club and a better place. That's where Penrith's future lies."