Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Dedication Guaranteed; Lockyer Made Sure He Was One of Best with Hard Work

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

Dedication Guaranteed; Lockyer Made Sure He Was One of Best with Hard Work

Article excerpt

EVEN as a 17-year-old kid new to the big city from Roma, Darren Lockyer had the look of a professional about him.

My first memory of him was when I arrived early at Red Hill for a pre-season training session in 1995 and saw this skinny, blond-headed boy Co dressed in Broncos training gear Co monotonously grubbering balls through the uprights. Initially I wondered how he had scored the gear, because he looked no older than 14.

That kid was, of course, Darren Lockyer. Four months later the first of his 336 NRL matches was played. In the intervening 16 seasons he has not only broken almost every record imaginable but has entertained, captivated and sometimes annoyed the sporting public with his incredible talent.

One of the more interesting adjuncts to a career as a sports journalist is identifying a wasted gift. And over the years I have seen a host of players possessing as much natural ability as Lockyer, but many were either not prepared, or too lazy, to make the most of their God-given gift.

Sure Lockyer had all the skills, but he worked tirelessly to hone them. As a kid he would watch State of Origin games on video, replay Wally Lewis moves over and over again, then go outside with his younger brothers and practise them, also ad infinitum.

Over the years watching the Broncos train, I have seen no one more dedicated. At 34 he still embarrasses most of the young blokes with his efforts.

But the one characteristic that defines Lockyer as a player and a person is his critical self assessment. Win, lose or draw, he knew when he played below his best and no amount of post-match praise or cajoling could change his demeanour.

But, he was a champion celebrator. His moon-dancing effort in the Broncos boardroom the night after the 2006 grand final is one of the most hilarious celebrations I have witnessed.

While everyone deserves their privacy, it is sometimes a shame fans do not get to see players away from their usual environment. Darren Lockyer has a charismatic, dry sense of humour. He is forever the focus on the Broncos' annual dress-up day.

As much as I admire Lockyer as a player, I can't say he is the best I have seen. …

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