Bulldogs legend Terry Lamb says it will take an “absolutely exceptional” player to ever beat the record retiring Broncos captain Darren Lockyer is about to break on Friday when he makes his 350th NRL appearance.
And he should know better than anyone, apart from former Sea Eagles great Steve Menzies. The pair currently share the record for all-time NRL appearances of 349 games with Lockyer, who, by season’s end, will hold a new record that most believe will never be broken.
“I’m very proud that the record held by myself and Steve Menzies will be broken,” said 49-year-old Lamb, who played his 349 games from 1980-1996.
“If there’s one person that I’ve admired over many years in rugby league it is Darren Lockyer.
“As a fullback pushing up to five-eighth early in his career, I questioned if he would be good enough to take all the traffic coming at him in the front line. I’m pleased to say he has definitely proved me wrong.
“I think the record he will set may not be beaten – but then, someone said the same thing about me 10 years ago. Steve Menzies equalled it – Darren will beat it.
“One thing’s for sure, it’s going to take an absolutely exceptional player to beat Darren’s record. Maybe five to 10 years down the track Darren will be saying the same type of thing.”
Menzies, 37, who played his record 349 NRL games from 1993-2008, said it’s hard to say if the new Lockyer record for most NRL appearances won’t ever be broken, but highly unlikely.
Since retiring from the NRL, Menzies has played 75 games in the UK Super League and has just signed his fourth (and last) one-year contract for 2012, which will see him end his career with French club Catalans Dragons.
“There is no better player in the modern game than he’s been for such a long time,” said Menzies. “It is fitting that he is breaking the record.
“It’s hard to say if the record won’t ever be broken … but anyone in the high 200s for games played has had a long time in rugby league.
“To be able to play for that many years at that level; to be durable and avoid injury; and be good enough at that age with so many talented young kids with amazing skills coming through … to be older and (still) be one of the top players is a tribute to his talent.
“Everyone has seen what he’s done at every level - State of Origin, Australia - so to play arguably the toughest, most competitive level through his entire career … that says it all.”
Menzies said he had continued to play in the UK for a further three seasons so far after retiring from the NRL because “my body still feels good and my mind is still right”.
He said the secret to his longevity was that he’s “not too much of a serious guy”.
“I loved playing; I stared when I was 6 or 7,” he said. “It just turned into my job and I was lucky enough to keep going.
“I enjoy training and the team environment and the off-field aspects, like the media. Unless you enjoy all the aspects and it is not like a job, you won’t play for that long; not at first grade.”
Menzies is keen to return to Australia after the 2012 season.
“I’m not sure what I want to do, but I have 12 months to think about it,” he said. “I have a few businesses back home. I would still like to be involved with Manly or the game … but I can’t put my finger on exactly what I would like to do.”
Meanwhile Menzies is enjoying life in France and the challenges of a different culture.
“I would love to be able to speak French well,” he said. “I don’t think I’m really suited to it. I still get lessons. Our (Australian) coach speaks fluent French so I have picked up quite a bit. It’s all part of the experience.”