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More to hard man Lussick than meets the eye

Dan Walsh, Staff Writer NRL.com Sun, May 18, 2014 - 7:09 AM

Eels forward Darcy Lussick crashes into the Dragons defence during their Saturday clash at Pirtek Stadium. Copyright: Robb Cox

"He's an animal. He listens to heavy metal, puts the headphones in and bashes his head against the wall... We don't go near him."

It's oh so easy to believe Jarryd Hayne when he describes the pre-game routine of Eels enforcer Darcy Lussick.

This is, after all, the bloke who could start a fight in an empty room. The guy whose idea of a romantic night out back in 2011 was a double date where he paired up with former teammate Glenn Stewart to go hammer and tongs with Melbourne duo Ryan Hinchcliffe and Adam Blair in the infamous Battle of Brookvale.

It fits so perfectly with the perception of the hard-nosed prop who moonlighted as a security guard during his first year in the top grade, the young firebrand who had the Tigers' pack calling him out in the manner of a heavyweight boxer in the lead-up to their recent Easter Monday clash. 

Only issue is, it is just that: too good to be true.

"He said that did he?" laughs Lussick when told of his skipper's porky pie.

"Playing in the front row, I guess that's what people would expect, but I'm pretty cruisy before a game honestly. 

"I think it'd do more harm than good if I listened to that stuff."

Judging by the bone-rattling hits Lussick has dished out in the opening exchanges over the past fortnight, lining up Luke Lewis with a shot that forced an error and led to the Eels' first try last week before following up with another corker on Bronson Harrison in the Eels' 36-0 drubbing of the Dragons, the Beacon Hills Bear junior is probably right. 

A bit of speed metal in the 24-year-old's ears may well prove harmful for anyone unlucky enough to get in his way.

As has been his way since debuting for Manly in 2011, Lussick made his presence known to the Dragons big men, running for 137 metres from 15 carries and forcing his way into the in-goal in the fourth minute of play through his trademark aggression and a healthy dollop of sheer will.

Lussick admits the confrontational approach he wears like a watermark does have its drawbacks, the most obvious being the time spent on the sidelines when his blood boils over just a tad too much. Like when he attempted to belt former teammate and friend Jared Waera-Hargeaves into next year with a swinging arm in Round 2, and copped a four-week suspension for his troubles. 

But rather than drastically alter the approach that saw him rewarded with a maiden City Origin jumper this year, Lussick says it was simply a matter of controlling the beast within. 

"It wasn't so much about changing my game and being less aggressive, I just had to be a bit smarter about how I went about it," he tells NRL.com.

"Obviously you can't go out trying to take people's heads off, even if it is Jared, it's just about being smarter.

"Playing in the front row, you're expected to be aggressive and I'm just playing my part for the team."

With a bit of cajoling, Hayne puts on his captain's cap and seriously evaluates the contribution of his young charger to the Eels' impressive start to the year, adamant Lussick is a different man since returning from his enforced layoff.

"He's been great [since returning]," says Hayne.

"I think he's growing up, he's a leader now and he was probably known for his impact whereas now he's doing a lot of work. 

"Darcy and Timmy (Mannah) are the hard workers who get the ball going forward and then guys like Junior (Paulo) and Peni (Terepo) come on really lift the tempo up and it gives us a really good balance in the forward pack.

"He's in the starting team so he needs to be a bit more mature and I think he's done that."