League: Win sets up fitting farewell for Lockyer

By Andrew Alderson

Darren Lockyer holds the Bill Kelly Trophy after beating the Kiwis on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images
Darren Lockyer holds the Bill Kelly Trophy after beating the Kiwis on Saturday. Photo / Getty Images

If Friday night's Anzac test win is anything to go by, Kangaroos captain Darren Lockyer claimed the first title of what could be four by the end of his final season.

After being presented with the Bill Kelly Trophy for their win over New Zealand, Lockyer, a man who always appears reluctant in the spotlight, was subjected to a video package on the Skilled Park big screen of his career highlights footnoted by a description as "a living immortal".

While it was a great watch, Lockyer looked desperate to ignore it. He adjusted his boots, did a little hamstring stretch and pulled a couple of straggly bits of tape off; presumably hoping he might be ignored.

Lockyer has been one of the sport's consistent champions stretching back to his debut for Brisbane in 1995. Friday night was another opportunity to showcase his skills, ensuring the Kangaroos maintained their unbeaten Anzac test streak.

"We knew we were favourites," Lockyer said. "We haven't lost this game for 13 years so I think we just went out there and, while it was scrappy at times, I loved the character we showed."

Character also brings wisdom as a skipper.

"We were aware the ref [Richard Silverwood] wasn't going to blow the whistle much [there were two penalties in the entire game]. It extended the wrestle at the play-the-ball so it became a bit of a dogfight. I could sense he was going to referee like that from the first set.

"Usually if the ref's going to blow the whistle, they'll make a statement early." In a test where the halves failed to demonstrate scintillating brilliance, Lockyer proved the best director.

Shortly after that first set, he put boot to ball and hoisted a bomb Lance Hohaia spilled into a Bermuda triangle of Kiwis defence. Billy Slater scored. Australia had inflicted the first strike and held the ascendancy thereafter.

Lockyer's opposite Benji Marshall acknowledged his guile.

"He controlled the game, his kicking kept us down in the first half in particular. I don't think his form warrants him to retire. He's still killing us.

"It's hard when you're forced to play out of your own half so much and we did that most of the game. We couldn't put into place what we'd done at training."

New Zealand need to take heed. This could be just the beginning for Lockyer in his final season as he was watched by his wife Loren, one-year old son Sunny, parents Sharon and David and brothers Matt and Russell in the Skilled Park stands.

He has every chance of finishing with another Origin series for Queensland, a fifth premiership with Brisbane and regaining the Four Nations.

Those accolades could go with the record for test caps (excluding Super league tests he equalled Ruben Wiki's 55 on Friday), Origin caps (he has 33 compared to Allan Langer's 34) and NRL games (he has 341 and counting towards Steve Menzies and Terry Lamb's 349).

With the Anzac test victory, one of league's grandest farewells is in the offing.

- Herald on Sunday

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