Darren Lockyer: Out to break English hearts one last time

The Australian legend has been one of the world's best for 15 years and he aims to bow out in Four Nations glory, he tells Dave Hadfield

Like a gravel-voiced old crooner on his farewell tour, Darren Lockyer has stepped up to the microphone for positively the last time. Rugby league's answer to Tom Waits – his rasping vocal register is the result of an elbow to the windpipe early in his career – is getting used to saying his goodbyes.

There has been his last club game for the Brisbane Broncos, his last State of Origin, his last Test on Australian soil and, on Saturday night at Elland Road, his record 59th cap in his last game of all. "I've had a lot of last games," he says with the air of a man with just one more landmark to negotiate. "I've tried to keep the emotion out of it, so it's not about my last game and I can focus on the footy." All the same, there is something special about ending one of the great international playing careers almost where it began. In 1997, he had just one cap to his credit when he toured England and played at Elland Road for the first time.

It still ranks among his favourite memories. "I was just a kid of 20 and it was like Christmas for me. I was playing alongside blokes like Laurie Daley and Bradley Clyde, who had been my heroes when I was growing up."

Then a precocious young full-back, he shone in an Ashes series-clinching victory. It was the start of a fruitful relationship with Leeds United's stadium. "It's a nice place to finish," he said as he surveyed the scene again. "I've got some good memories of it." Those memories include putting Great Britain to the sword, beating them 44-4 in the final of what was then the Tri-Nations in 2004. It was a match in which Lockyer, by then stand-off and captain, had a hand or foot in all but one of Australia's tries.

Lockyer was also instrumental in Australia beating England in the Four Nations final on his last visit two years ago. One way and another, a happy hunting ground and a good choice of exit point.

He has no need to be leaving the game now. A niggling shoulder injury aside, he looks as spry as ever at 34 and Widnes were keen to sign him as the man to inspire their re-entry into Super League. Lockyer considered their handsome offer seriously. "But I don't like wasting people's time, so I didn't go too far down that path," he says.

Nor is he in any hurry to step into the coaching role that is widely supposed to be his destiny. "Not now," he says. "Potentially never." Instead, he plans to approach the game as an observer for the next couple of years, although he is likely to be working in some capacity on the 2013 World Cup.

First, though, there is the small matter of a career-ending Four Nations final to navigate. Much as he tries to play it down, there is something undeniably special about the occasion.

For the first time in England, his mother and father – the heroes of hundreds of long drives to games from the family home in the Queensland outback town of Roma – will be there to see him play. His wife can't be, because she is expecting their second child.

Already, bookies are taking bets on Lockyer scoring the winning points, just as he has against British sides on so many occasions. He has been Australia's get-out-of-jail card and his coach, Tim Sheens, admits that he will be badly missed. "He'll leave a big hole in the Australian side," Sheens says. "Champions don't come along every day – and I don't use that word lightly."

Adrian Morley, an opponent for club and country, who once went on holiday with him to Amsterdam after an Ashes series, described him as "modest and humble". That is certainly the way he sounds as he rumbles his way through his reflections on his career. "I have to pinch myself and ask myself how I've done what I have. I've never taken it for granted."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific