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NRL Mailbox: Tribute to Lockyer's 350th

NRL Wed, Aug 17, 2011 - 12:00 PM

We have received a lot of enquiries regarding the tribute to Darren Lockyer at the Cowboys for his 350th game.

The NRL worked closely with the Cowboys to ensure a video tribute and a presentation of the game ball to Darren.

The NRL will further honour Darren’s achievements at the Men of League Ball, the Telstra Premiership Grand Final Breakfast, the Telstra Premiership Grand Final Carbine Club Lunch and the retiring players’ parade at the Telstra Premiership Grand Final.

There is no doubt that the most emotional tributes in relation to player milestones at games have taken place in front of passionate home crowds.

For many years it was a key marketing focus for clubs wanting to honour their players and often the celebration was postponed until the next home game. Indeed this was an area that clubs traditionally protected.

It was not a denial of the universal respect League fans have for a champion player but a recognition that a celebration shared in front of a home crowd will always take on a greater dimension.

This has been further underlined by situations where a player reaching a milestone after a loss at an away venue has at the last minute refused to be a part of the presentation.

Taking these factors into account and also taking into account the need to see milestones honoured at the time, the NRL discussed with all clubs last year a consistent approach.

It was agreed that the NRL would, regardless of the match being ‘home’ or ‘away’, provide a video tribute where appropriate and that in the case of milestones such as Darren’s and earlier this year that of Nathan Hindmarsh, that the NRL would present the player with the match ball after the game.

This is seen as an important recognition by the game but the NRL does not take control of the home club’s game day beyond that. Nor does it control the run-on banners that clubs may use on game day.

Attempting such presentations before a game is problematic, most players want to focus on the game at this time rather than be distracted.

Ultimately home clubs are entitled to want to make the focus of their game day celebration their team and their club, and as much as they will stop to honour a champion from any club, the focus will for the most part be on the home team.

To those who were at the ground at Dairy Farmers Stadium and for Darren and the Broncos the presentation and video represented a significant moment. Unfortunately most television viewers will not have seen the video tribute or the full presentation. Importantly it is just a part of the recognition Darren will receive.

We had not elected to bring Terry Lamb or Steve Menzies (the previous record holders) to the venue simply because the presentation for that match was not designed to include them. That said, the NRL did offer to fly Terry up to attend the game when he expressed an interest in the media but he declined due to the late timing.

Another question that is often raised at this time of year is in regard to retiring players.

Each year the NRL chooses to honour a number of players who are leaving the game. There are presentations at the Carbine Club Lunch in Grand Final week and at the Telstra Premiership Grand Final.

It is a special farewell honour for players who have been loyal to the Telstra Premiership and who are retiring from Rugby League.

A retiring player must have played at least 100 Telstra Premiership games to qualify. This is ultimately meant to be a farewell from the fans and there are players who may choose to play elsewhere and return. As such a player who is leaving the NRL to play in England must have played 200 games to qualify for recognition, indicating that the player has made a substantial contribution to the Telstra Premiership and is unlikely to return.

As always there are compelling cases to be made as exceptions, particularly players who have given ten years of service to the one club. The NRL invites clubs to make submissions on behalf of those players where appropriate and looks at these on a case by case basis.

Due to the large number of retiring players this season, we will be working with media partners to promote Round 26 as ‘Heroes to Legends’ Round.