Had it not been for his parents re-locating the family from Brisbane to Wandoan in Queensland, Darren Lockyer might never have become a rugby league legend. If he had stayed in Brisbane, ‘Locky’ could have become the face of Aussie Rules football. But as neither Wandoan, nor Roma had Aussie rules teams Locky had to turn his attention to Rugby League.
Lockyer made his first grade debut with the Brisbane Broncos at the age of 18. He came on as a sub at five-eighth in a 60-14 drubbing of Parramatta in 1995. Having made his performance count, Lockyer went on to win the Bronco’s ‘Rookie of the Year Award’.
At the start of the 1996 season Lockyer secured a starting role as fullback for the Broncos and embarked upon a career full of extreme highs.
The 2000 NRL season brought a premiership title victory for the Broncos and a Clive Churchill Medal for Lockyer, owing to his impressive performance in the Grand Final against the Sydney Roosters.
Lockyer had the honour of becoming captain of the Queensland Maroons in 2001, following a neck injury to Gordon Tallis. Locky responded to the increased responsibility and helped Queensland to a State of Origin victory against New South Wales with a man-of-the-match performance, in a game that should have been remembered as the return of Allan Langer.
Broncos’ coach Wayne Bennett shocked the sport in 2004, when he moved, arguably the world’s best fullback, Lockyer to five-eighth. It’s a position Locky grew into after some time, as it also became his regular starting position for Queensland and Australia.
2004 will also be remembered as the year when lockyer took a blow to the throat during a match and damaged his larynx, which left him with his characteristically husky voice.
Lockyer’s career was full of memorable moments, but never did he pack quite so many into one season as he did in 2006. He became the first player since Allan Langer to captain teams to victory in the NRL premiership with the Broncos, the State of Origin series for Queensland and lead Australia to Tri-Nations glory. Following the 2006 NRL Grand Final triumph over Melbourne Storm, Broncos’ coach Bennett said: “Thank God for him [Lockyer] that he doesn’t lose confidence and he is the champion he is.”
In a career punctuated by success and glory how fitting that the final match of his career saw him lift the Four Nations crown in 2011 as captain of Australia. The Kangaroos demolished England 30-8 with Lockyer scoring the last try of the game. While he failed to kick the conversion, history will quickly forget that final, miniscule blip when all his achievements are taking into account.
Darren Lockyer was inducted to the SportsMission Hall of Fame on November 26th, 2011.