Locky, you’re an Immortal in waiting
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