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|Locked out: legend eyes Four Nations after being denied a final flourish|
|Topic Started: Sep 24 2011, 02:23 AM (118 Views)|
|stacey||Sep 24 2011, 02:23 AM Post #1|
"I feel I've got a bit left in the tank so the Four Nations is where I will put my focus
now" ... Darren Lockyer. Photo: Quentin Jones
AFTER watching from the third row of the grandstand as his Broncos teammates bravely lost to Manly last night, Darren Lockyer declared that his focus was now on finishing his glittering career on a high by leading Australia to victory in the Four Nations.
A philosophical Lockyer said he had come to terms before last night’s defeat to the Sea Eagles that he may have played his last premiership match and insisted he could not have hoped for a better season to finish than the one the young Broncos have enjoyed this year.
However, he insisted he would make a farewell appearance on Australian soil in the October 16 Test against New Zealand in Newcastle, before leading the Kangaroos in the Four Nations tournament in England and Wales. ‘‘I feel I’ve got a bit left in the tank and I probably need to empty that out so the Four Nations is where I will put my focus now,’’ Lockyer said.
Manly’s win ensured that there was no fairytale finish for Lockyer, who has now retired from the NRL after a record 355 matches for the Broncos. He has also played 36 State of Origin matches, made two appearances for the NRL All Stars, featured twice for Queensland and four times for Australia in Super League, as well as representing the Kangaroos 55 times.
Asked if he had dared to dream of a farewell grand final appearance, Lockyer insisted he would have ignored the depressed cheekbone fracture that kept him out of last night’s match to play.
‘‘I don’t think that there was anyone who was going to stop me next week,’’ Lockyer said ‘‘Before kick-off tonight we were still one game away from the grand final. I never stopped dreaming that it could happen, but I was also prepared that it might not either.
‘‘The end was coming whether it was this week or next week. I guess we’re disappointed in the dressing room but the year we have had, I couldn’t have asked for a better year to finish on at the Broncos to be honest. Maybe a premiership, but I have had a great time.
‘‘The support that has come my way this year from the public has been fantastic so I don’t have any disappointments to look back on over the season. I have had a fun time this year, it has been very enjoyable. I have had a lot of highs and there hasn’t been too many lows. Last week was unfortunate but that is part of the game we play.’’
Manly coach Des Hasler and captain Jamie Lyon paid tribute to Lockyer after the Sea Eagles qualified for their third grand final in five years.
‘‘He has played 355 games and I think the greatest compliment that Darren could have is that he has the respect of has peers, not only his teammates but every opposition player,’’ said Hasler, who was still playing when Lockyer began his career in 1995. ‘‘That far outweighs any man-of-the-match honours that he might have and far outweighs any State of Origin victories and grand finals that he has had.’’
Lyon added: ‘‘He is a great bloke and a champion player so it is sad to see him go. I am glad to be able to look back and say I played against him and with him.’’
With a largely inexperienced team under a rookie coach, Brisbane’s first-year mentor Anthony Griffin admitted many people would say Lockyer’s absence was the reason the Broncos lost last night but he insisted that was not the case and also went to lengths not to blame the referees.
Lockyer’s successor as captain, Sam Thaiday, got the players in a huddle at full-time and spoke to them about next season. ‘‘I just said, ‘Remember this feeling and next year we build and we come back bigger and better’,’’ Thaiday said. ‘‘At the start of the year we weren’t really sure what was going on – whether we had a coach or we didn’t have a coach, and we had a key signing [Greg Inglis] leave the club – so there was a lot of ups and downs we overcame,’’ Thaiday said. ‘‘We showed a lot of guts and we showed a lot of people that no matter who wears this jersey they are going to lift and give their all for the club.’’
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