Injured Lockyer ends Broncos career with frustrating defeat

 

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The Independent Online

The Australia captain Darren Lockyer will turn his thoughts towards the Four Nations series in England and Wales after watching the curtain fall on his domestic career.

Lockyer has played his last game for Brisbane and may have played his last game on Australian soil after the Broncos bowed out of the NRL finals series with a 26-14 defeat by Manly at the Sydney Football Stadium.

The injured Brisbane captain watched from the stands as the Sea Eagles qualified for their third Grand Final in five years, denying him the chance of a fairy-tale finish to his NRL career.

Lockyer, 34, has now retired after a record 355 matches for the Broncos and has also played 36 State of Origin matches and has so far won a record 55 caps for the Kangaroos.

He looks certain to extend his Test record in the Four Nations, although whether he will recover quickly enough from the depressed fracture of his left cheekbone to take the field against the Kiwis in Newcastle on 16 October is yet to be seen.

Even if the Broncos had won last night, Lockyer would have been in doubt for the grand final a week tomorrow. After a clash of heads in last Saturday night's golden-point win against St George Illawarra, Lockyer had three titanium plates surgically inserted in his face and was told he would need six weeks to recover.

After initially insisting he would lead the Broncos in the Grand Final qualifier, Lockyer withdrew on Wednesday and will fly back to Brisbane tomorrow the same way he arrived in Sydney – in a helicopter flying at low altitude to avoid pressure on his cheekbone. The Kangaroos open the Four Nations tournament against New Zealand at Warrington on 28 October.

Harlequins' new signing Craig Gower has been named in Italy's squad for next month's 2013 World Cup European zone qualifying matches against Russia, Serbia and Lebanon.

The 33-year-old half-back won 18 caps with Australia during his 10-year career with Penrith Panthers before moving to French rugby union in 2008 and has been a regular in Italy's Six Nations team over the last four seasons.

Gower, who has an Italian grandfather, has signed a two-year contract with Harlequins. He will be making his debut for Italy's rugby league team, who kick off the round-robin tournament against Russia in Padova on 15 October.

The Azzurri will be jointly captained by another former Kangaroo, full-back Anthony Minichello, and Cameron Ciraldo, of Newcastle Knights, while further experience is provided in the shape of former Crusaders forward Rocky Trimarchi, now back playing in Sydney with Western Suburbs.

The Italian rugby league vice-president, Fabio Di Pietro, said: "Just three years ago when the FIRL established the Italian rugby league, it was unthinkable that we would participate in the World Cup qualification."

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