Fund­ing fight

Locky, you’re an Im­mor­tal in wait­ing

Townsville Bulletin - - Front Page -

RECORD-breaker Dar­ren Lock­yer could be rugby league’s next im­mor­tal but the hum­ble Bron­cos cham­pion says be­ing re­mem­bered as a player who al­ways gave his best would be enough.

There hasn’t been an ad­di­tion to the Im­mor­tals club since Arthur Beet­son, who like Lock­yer also hailed from the Queens­land town of Roma, was in­ducted as the sev­enth mem­ber in 2004.

‘‘ It’s been com­ing. You can’t play on for­ever,’’ said Lock­yer, who yes­ter­day an­nounced he would re­tire at the end of 2011.

‘‘ I have no re­grets. I’ve al­ways given my best whether it’s for club, state or coun­try.

‘‘ I’ll hang my hat on that rather than what the stats say.’’ But those stats are im­pres­sive. No rugby league player has cap­tained his coun­try more times ( 33) or scored more Test tries ( 34) in the his­tory of the game. And he’s not fin­ished yet. In the next six months he could break Al­lan Langer’s record of 34 Ori­gins, claim Kiwi Ruben Wiki’s world record of 55 Tests and eclipse the NRL record of 349 games cur- rently shared by Steve Men­zies and Terry Lamb.

If the farewell gods are smil­ing, he could also lead Queens­land to a sixth con­sec­u­tive State of Ori­gin se­ries win, help the Kan­ga­roos re­claim the Four Na­tions in the UK and pos­si­bly claim a fifth pre­mier­ship with Bris­bane for whom he’s played ev­ery one of his 336 NRL games since 1995.

Lock­yer cap­tured the pre­mier­ship-Ori­gin-Tri Na­tions tre­ble in 2006. But has never played for records. Be­fore mak­ing yes­ter­day’s an­nounce­ment he told team­mates he didn’t want his fi­nal sea­son to turn into a tribute year for him.

‘‘ I’ve spo­ken to the boys al­ready and that’s not how I want it to be,’’ Lock­yer said.

‘‘ In ‘ 06 it was the per­fect out­come for Web­bie ( We­bcke) and I’d love to have an­other out­come like that.

‘‘ But as play­ers we do it for our­selves, each other, our fans and our club.’’

The Bron­cos have had a phi­los­o­phy of not be­ing about one player but chief ex­ec­u­tive Paul White ac­knowl­edged that Lock­yer’s con­tri- bu­tion over 17 sea­sons was spe­cial.

‘‘ As a club you don’t re­place play­ers like Dar­ren Lock­yer, you sim­ply work hard at pre­par­ing for life af­ter them,’’ said White.

‘‘ Dar­ren’s stature in the game, his place in the game will be there for­ever.’’

Lock­yer de­cided in Jan­uary af­ter talk­ing to his wife Loren and his par­ents that he would re­tire at sea­son’s end.

He spoke to his long­time coach Wayne Bennett about his plans dur­ing last month’s All Stars camp on the Gold Coast.

‘ ‘ The roller-coaster ride your emo­tions take with foot­ball . . . at least my wife won’t have to deal with my moods af­ter a loss,’’ he said.

‘‘ You think as you get older and more ex­pe­ri­enced you’d han­dle them ( loses) bet­ter but as I’ve got­ten older, losses still change my mood a bit.’’

He con­ceded the thought of play­ing one sea­son too many had crossed his mind.

‘‘ I thought a lit­tle bit about that and put my­self in a po­si­tion of be­ing back here this time next year . . . whether I’d have the same mo­ti­va­tion,’’ he said.

‘‘ I was ques­tion­ing whether I would so I knew it was the right time to fin­ish up.

‘‘ I didn’t want to de­lay it and go down the path of con­stant spec­u­la­tion about my fu­ture.

‘‘ It’s out there now, the fans know and it gives the Bron­cos a chance to plan their play­ing ros­ter for next year.’’

As one high-pro­file coach said: Rugby league will only re­alise how much it misses Dar­ren Lock­yer once he stops play­ing.

Lock­yer knows he will miss rugby league but ac­cepts it’s time to be a hus­band and fa­ther.

‘‘ That feel­ing in the dress­ing room af­ter you win a game, that’s a high I’ll miss. I won’t miss the losses,’’ he smiled.

He hasn’t made any de­ci­sion on his fu­ture but a ca­reer in the me­dia or coach­ing are ob­vi­ous ca­reer paths.

‘‘ There’s a few things on the ta­ble but I just re­ally want to take 12 months off, gather my thoughts and work out ex­actly what it is I want to do,’’ he said.

NO RE­GRETS: Rugby league hero Dar­ren Lock­yer has done it all but there’s one hon­our left – to be made an Im­mor­tal

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