I'll captain Manly: Orford MANLY'S prize recruit Matt Orford has declared his desire to take over the Sea Eagles captaincy from Michael Monaghan - the man he will unseat at halfback. Orford opened up about his new chapter at Manly, hitting out at suggestions he deserted Melbourne by chasing a big-money deal at Brookvale. He also revealed how close he came to joining South Sydney. But the City Origin playmaker says he is rapt with his move to Manly and would relish the captaincy, which remains vacant after coach Des Hasler relieved Monaghan of the job at the end of last season. "I'd love to do it, I've reached a stage in my career where I'd like to lead a team," Orford said. "There are a few blokes here with leadership qualities, blokes like BK (Ben Kennedy), Brent Kite, Mick (Monaghan) and Steve Menzies, so obviously Des has some options. "I know I'm only new to the club but if Des wants me to do it, I'd be honoured. "At this stage, I haven't given it too much thought, but I've settled in well, it's a great club and the decision is with Des." One issue not concerning Orford is his omission from the Kangaroos' preliminary 44-man squad named by Test coach Ricky Stuart last week. While Parramatta halfback Tim Smith earned a call-up after just one season, Orford missed the cut despite five successful years at the Storm. Privately, there is a belief among selectors that Orford is a quality first-grader who fails to step up in big games. They wonder whether he is made for the Test and Origin stage. But the 27-year-old says he is not finished as a representative footballer. In fact, he insists his best years are ahead. "Obviously I wanted to be a part of that (Kangaroos) squad, but it's not the end of the world," he said. "I've had a few solid seasons but obviously I need to do more. This is clearly an indication I need to get better as a player. "I don't think rep football is past me because I haven't reached my peak yet. I'm getting smarter each year and learning from other players. "But Manly is my focus. I want to do well for them." Orford was mildly stung by rumours that preceded his arrival at Manly. He heard Melbourne officials suggest he was money hungry. Souths boss Shane Richardson even called for an NRL inquiry into the financial components of Orford's reported $450,000-a-season deal at Manly. "I was comfortable with the reason I left," he said. "There were a lot of factors. Money didn't make my mind up. "I felt that moving back to my family and being in Sydney would help my football." Joining Souths was a genuine consideration. Had the Rabbitohs snared Braith Anasta, it might just have been the impetus to sway Orford. "I couldn't have turned the team around myself so they had to show me they were going to sign some quality players," he said. "If Braith had gone and they'd signed a big front rower (Ben Ross ended up joining Cronulla), I could have easily been in a Souths jersey."