Reflections on Darren Lockyer Day

Thursday July 7, 2011

KEYTO’S NRL HITS (and misses) – In case you missed it, Wednesday July 6, 2011 was officially Darren Lockyer Day here in Queensland! It was a day to celebrate a marvellous Origin career by a man of not only great skill, but wonderful personality and humility too. Last night’s result, for Queensland, was fitting for a Maroon Immortal in his final show.

Origin III

Heading into Suncorp Stadium last night I honestly had no idea who was going to win the match. This was the Blues best chance in six years to win a series because they’d finally picked a half decent team and the Maroons dynasty was appearing to be on shakier ground.

But once the Maroons crossed for that first try it was never in doubt … actually once they crossed for that first try then forced a line drop out in the next set, it was never in doubt.

Queensland skipped away to a fitting 24-nil lead and despite two tries to the Blues before halftime, the crowd was in party mode.

NSW threatened to come back but the Maroons put an end to that, hit back with a try to Slater and despite the horror injury to Thurston, 52,000 Queenslanders began to remember and celebrate win number six.

Last night was the hottest crowd I’ve ever been in. It was just plain loud from start to finish and never a dull moment.

The loudest noise I’d previously heard at Suncorp was on Steve Price Fight Night in Game III, 2009, when Locky hoisted that bomb just so the boys could bash some Blues. However last night we crowned a new king of noise … and a new King of Origin.

Great Man’s Origin Career

The year 1995 was the first I can remember seriously starting to follow this sport and it was the year we met Darren Lockyer. He is the best player I have ever seen.

Lockyer’s Origin career will go down as possibly the best ever for Queensland. His leadership has been outstanding; his ability to come up with the right play at the right time is second to none. The man has been all class in TWO key positions and performed on the grandest stage on 36 occasions.

Lockyer’s work off the ball is something to watch as well. Television doesn’t show him directing traffic or scheming behind the play. This is probably what the Maroons will miss the most.

As I mentioned at the top, Darren Lockyer’s humility is perhaps his greatest asset. He is always the first to thank the opposition, the coaches and of course the fans.

The greatest Darren Lockyer Origin memory I have was when this dynasty began … Game III, 2006. They said Origin was dead because Queensland couldn’t win a series. The Blues were ahead in the Decider with just a few minutes to go.

But, there’s a loose ball and who swoops?? Lockyer gathers on the run and scoots over to score the try that wins the game for Queensland. Gus Gould was screaming NNNOOOO and the Maroons haven’t looked back since.

Handy Replacements

Darren Lockyer’s absence will create a huge hole in the Queensland team but there’s great back-up. Captain-in-waiting Cameron Smith will have a flawless transition into the top job and the Maroons won’t lose anything. There’s a guy named Cronk ready to move off the bench and into the halves, you may have heard of him?

The utility role will be filled by perhaps a Matt Gillett, Ben Te’o, Jack Reed or Ben Barba next year. Then there are guys by the names of Taylor and Shillington just itching to come back.

Some of the best young talent in the game like Dodds, Kennedy, McGuire, Cherry-Evans and Sandow won’t look out of place.

Yep, the future of Queensland is looking pretty damn good.

Where to for the Blues?

The next 2-3 years could produce the best football we have ever seen in Origin football. NSW has a stack of talent to work with and there’s no reason why every game next year can’t be an even money bet. Jamie Soward looks the goods and reminds me of a debuting Lockyer. He is a guy the Blues must build a team around and will be better for the run this year.

Jarryd Hayne had to be NSW fullback once Dugan was ruled out. Mini is a seasoned veteran who was good in Sydney but found out last night. Hayne was the only Blue to trouble Queensland and despite a couple of line breaks, was easily contained out wide. The try he scored came from playing a fullback’s role.

Last night proved the front rower is not dead with Matt Scott and Petero Civoniceva dominating the match. I agree with the decision to play Paul Gallen at prop (that’s how he plays anyway), but to give Tim Mannah and Keith Galloway minimal minutes was wrong. The tactic worked on a wet track in Sydney but was totally wrong on a fast pitch in Brisbane.

One thing they have done right is appoint a good coach. He pisses Queenslanders off like only one man who has come before him … Phil Gould. Ricky Stuart was able to bring back the hate which, in case we needed it, gave Queensland more motivation to win six in a row.

This show ain’t over yet

I still have at least one more Darren Lockyer column in me when the time is right. But for now, once this Origin party is over, there is business to take care of. The Broncos have a Grand Final to win and the final three months of NRL competition should be wonderful to watch.


Tips – Warriors, Tigers, Sharks, Storm, Penrith, Manly, Newcastle
Last Week – 2/5
Total –73/121 (60%)

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Thanks for reading,