As the days tick down to Darren Lockyer's record-breaking 350th NRL game, rugby league guru David Middleton looks back at the top 10 performances from the retiring Australian captain.
Round 5, 1996 v North Queensland
At 19, Lockyer was not yet a regular starting player with the Broncos but he was placing intense pressure on the club’s all-international backline, especially after he scored a try and delivered the final pass in three others in a 58-14 slaughter of North Queensland. There was little doubt Lockyer would have been a starting player in any other team in the competition.
Round 21, 1998 v Adelaide
Despite spending two weeks on the sidelines with a fractured eye socket, Lockyer was scintillating in his comeback match against the Adelaide Rams. In one dazzling cameo, he ran the length of the field to score after retrieving a kick in his own in-goal, landed the conversion then only minutes later he brought down runaway Adelaide winger Matt Daylight with a try-saving tackle.
Grand Final, 2000 v Sydney Roosters
Lockyer was 23 when he claimed one of the game’s most prestigious awards, the Clive Churchill Medal, after playing a major hand in the Broncos’ 14-6 grand final defeat of the Sydney Roosters. Lockyer’s broken-field running was a constant threat to the Roosters’ defence and his acute sense of timing paved the way for the first try of the game to winger Lote Tuqiri.
Round 21, 2002 v Melbourne
With playmaking halfback Allan Langer missing through injury, Lockyer stepped into the breach with a highly involved attacking game as the Broncos powered to a 48-20 defeat of the Melbourne Storm. Lockyer repeatedly sent his runners into vacant space with precision passes and at fulltime, coach Wayne Bennett issued a prescient warning when he said of his star fullback: “There’s much, much more to come from him.”
Round 5, 2004 v Sydney Roosters
Lockyer was only five games into his “new” career as a five-eighth when he lined up against one of the great No. 6’s of the modern game, Brad Fittler. Playing his 200th first grade game, Lockyer produced a superb display of short kicking which led to two tries to centre Shaun Berrigan and very nearly a third for winger Craig Frawley. Lockyer was named man of the match after the Broncos’ 26-14 win.
Round 9, 2006 v Newcastle
The Broncos were beaten 32-30 in a captivating duel in Newcastle but there was little argument that Lockyer won the battle of the playmakers over Knights great Andrew Johns. The two were team-mates for Australia less than 48 hours earlier but Lockyer stood tall with a hand in four of his team’s tries besides scoring a fifth himself.
Preliminary Final, 2006 v Bulldogs
Lockyer’s leadership was instrumental in a memorable turnaround that propelled the Broncos into the 2006 grand final. A length-of-the-field try to hooker Shaun Berrigan sparked the fight-back and Lockyer came to the fore with a try, a hand in another for centre Brent Tate and a late field goal that carried the Broncos to a 37-20 win.
Round 4, 2007 v Sydney Roosters
The Broncos were under pressure after losing the first three games of their premiership defence in 2007 but Lockyer responded like a champion when he paved the way for a 32-10 win in the annual Good Friday clash with the Sydney Roosters. Lockyer set the tone for the night when he sent fullback Karmichael Hunt across for the opening try. He scored one try himself and set up another for lock Greg Eastwood on the way to another man of the match award.
Round 12, 2008 v Parramatta
Lockyer’s abilities as a match-winner were established long before his contribution to a miraculous Brisbane win over Parramatta in 2008. Casting aside concerns over a troublesome knee, Lockyer gambled on the final play of the game to place a pinpoint kick to the corner for young winger Denan Kemp to score the winning try after the fulltime siren.
Round 23, 2009 v Penrith
The Broncos were engaged in a desperate battle to stay in the race for the finals in 2009 when they met Penrith late in the 2009 season. With his team down 24-18 at halftime, Lockyer produced an attacking master class in the second 40 minutes as the Broncos surged to a 58-24 victory. The 31-year-old was highly involved in almost every attacking raid.