The greatest player I have ever seen
KEYTO’S NRL HITS (and misses) – On Sunday I will be one of more than 50,000 Brisbane fans to officially pay tribute to retiring superstar Darren Lockyer. All the rugby league I have ever watched has been in the Lockyer era and it will be quite surreal knowing he won’t be there anymore. Put simply – Darren Lockyer is the best in this business I have had the pleasure to watch with my own eyes.
When I was about 10 years old we used to go to the old Brisbane ANZ Stadium to watch the Broncos play – the year this began was 1995. That also happened to be the year a skinny blonde kid from Roma debuted at the great club as well.
My first Lockyer memory is of him kicking an easy goal late in a match and telling my grandparents, “Hey Darren Lockyer is on, this new kid is pretty good”. Of course I was the kid and how would I know talent, but I must have heard it somewhere and that judge was fairly good!
Lockyer has played in every team I have loved ever since.
As I grew older I was able to watch rugby league differently and truly work out which players had talent and who the stars were. It was pretty obvious Darren Lockyer was one of these. I believe guys like Tim Brasher and Brett Mullins paved the way for fullbacks like Lockyer.
But it took the great Locky to pave that road in a whole new direction to where things are today. Look at the Slater’s, Hayne’s, Dugan’s and Barba’s in our competition – these excitement machines largely developed from the way Lockyer evolved the fullback position.
He was safe and brave in defence but also came with a renewed X-Factor in attack. Fullback wasn’t just there to chime into a backline movement; the position became a weapon and focal point of attack. He was a rare custodian with a genuine kicking game and played like another halfback.
Today they all do it, but Lockyer is the one who got that ball rolling.
State of Origin
The one memory every Queenslander has is Darren Lockyer swooping on a loose ball in the year 2006 to steal a game from the Blues and secure our first series win in four years. There was talk of the death of Origin should NSW win four years in a row.
That play not only saved Queensland, but it sent the Blues on a six year losing streak!
Locky is the most capped Queensland player and we all have a lifetime of memories. He is easily the most influential Maroon since Wally Lewis and some might even say he is the new king. Lockyer was rarely rattled in the toughest competition and could always find a match winning play when it was needed. He has left a lasting legacy on Queenslanders everywhere.
The best twice
Few players have the honour of being crowned the best player in their position for a significant length of time. Even less have had that honour twice.
At a time where Darren Lockyer was still the best fullback in the game, his mentor Wayne Bennett decided to make his star the best five-eighth in the game too. While it took time, I think it’s fair to say eventually Lockyer could lay claim to being the best in that position too.
It seemed a natural transition but it wasn’t the case – there were some tough games and it probably took two seasons to really come good. We’ve seen other fullbacks try the switch and fail in the years since.
That’s another testament to Lockyer’s great skill, character and determination and to be honest, most will probably remember him as a great five-eighth rather than the great fullback. To me he is just the great player.
Finally I believe the hallmarks of a champion are the influence they have not only on team mates, but on the fans as well. It’s obvious that Lockyer has had a massive bearing on hundreds of careers and thousands of fans.
While maybe he was never perfect, the man just commands respect and that’s largely because he respects people back. Only a true star can have a stellar 16 year career relatively incident free.
Darren Lockyer is a superstar, a legend, a champion, a hero and a gentleman. He is the best in the world at what he does and will be missed next year. But on Sunday we will all celebrate.
After that – there’s a championship to win!
Tips – Newcastle, Dragons, Warriors, Tigers, Gold Coast, Bulldogs, Brisbane, Melbourne Last Week – 6/8 Total –115/184 (63%)
See you later,