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
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments