Mile Jedinak is a leader on or off the field whether or not he wears the captain's armband for the Socceroos, Australia winger Mat Leckie insisted today.
Jedinak has struggled for game time and not started the last two friendlies against Czechia and Hungary, only making it off the bench for the last half of the final warm-up game.
In his place, defender Trent Sainsbury has taken the skipper's role – and appears happy to keep the job in the future.
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Jedinak was officially said to have been relieved of this starting role because of his tired legs after a marathon domestic campaign with Aston Villa which saw him join the Turkish training camp late.
But missing the start of the Hungary game has put the veteran's future role firmly in doubt.
He took a central position in the official team picture at the training ground in Kazan in Russia today – but there's still no certainty he has the armband locked in when the Socceroos take to the field against France on Saturday.
But for Leckie, Jedinak is still at the very least a spiritual leader of the side and a gamechanger.
"In the two friendly games he started on the bench but when he came on against Hungary, for me, he changed the game," said Leckie.
"At the end of the day, we know all the qualities of every individual and even when Mile's left out, the guy that's playing in his place is also at a high level and posseses a lot of quality as well.
"At the end of the day it comes down to what the coach wants and what he thinks is best for the team."
Leckie added: "Mile is obviously an icon for a lot of us and we really look up to him and he brings a lot to the team.
"But obviously in saying that, even when he's not on the pitch, he's doing certain things in the dressing room and off the park.
"He's just a real professional and always positive."