The Immortal Darren Lockyer
There has been extensive discussion over the past few years over who will be the next player inducted into the elite class of Rugby League Immortals. The debate is a contentious one and there are several players from the past two decades that warrant serious consideration – Mal Meninga, Andrew Johns, Brad Fittler and Allan Langer are just a few names that spring to mind. Timing is undoubtedly a factor and it’s generally believed that a player should be retired for at least 5 years before being considered for this honour. For this reason, Darren Lockyer may not be the next Immortal – however, he will be an Immortal.
Statistics don’t lie. Most first grade games; more tests and tries for Australia than any player; the record for State of Origin appearances; four-time premiership winner; Clive Churchill medallist and two-time Golden Boot winner. No one in history comes close.
Just look at his stats, because no one has his stats. All of the great players of the past, no one can match what he has done.
– Wayne Bennett
Darren Lockyer the Revolutionary
Lockyer changed the game. He revolutionized the way fullbacks play. The traditional fullback was ball runner – good hands, speed to burn and always pushing up in support. Lockyer had all of these attributes in spades, but combined them with a supreme passing and kicking game. He became the focal point of the backline – the man delivering the final pass and creating space – and made fullback the new key position
In 2004, Lockyer made his remarkable transition to five-eighth; a man who was still unquestionably the world’s greatest fullback (and being touted by many as the best of all time) pushed up into the front line. The magnitude of such a move cannot be underestimated. By 2006, Lockyer had regained his crown as the world’s best player, captaining his club, state and country to victory – a truly outstanding feat. He would retire among the greatest five-eighths of all time.
I believe he is the greatest player to have ever played the game.
– Cameron Smith
In spite of his brilliance, the thing that casual viewers don’t understand is that Lockyer’s influence extends so far beyond what he does with the ball. He creates structure. Often he doesn’t throw the final pass, but his timing and depth are instrumental in the play.
Great Darren Lockyer Moments
My fondest memory of Darren Lockyer was probably not witnessed by the majority of Australian rugby league fans. It was the 2003 Ashes series in England. Australia was struggling and injuries had left them touring the Old Dart with what was effectively a second-string squad. The Kangaroos were on the ropes in all three games before Lockyer produced match-turning plays to lead them to victory. His performances were mesmerizing and it’s little wonder that he is held in such regard by British fans.
I don’t know if Lockyer is the best footballer I’ve seen. There are too many variables and different skill-sets to really compare. However, I can say this for certain:
- Lockyer is the best support player I have ever seen. His anticipation and instincts are superhuman. How many times have we seen him streak up the on inside to take that final pass? There was no better example than his match-winning try in the dying seconds of the 2006 Tri-Nations final, one of the best test matches of all time. Which brings me to my next point…
- Lockyer is the best clutch player I have seen. Throughout his career, he has consistently made the big plays when the game is on the line. It was so fitting that Lockyer finished his NRL career with a match-winning field goal in the final series.
- Darren Lockyer will be a Rugby League Immortal.