In a dangerous sign for his rivals from England, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea, Lockyer, 33, will head into his 52nd Test match on October 24 fresher “physically and mentally” than he has been for many years.
Lockyer and the Broncos missed the NRL finals series for the first time in his career, with the rib injury that sidelined him with four matches to go undoubtedly a major factor in Brisbane failing to make the eight.
After 333 games for the Broncos since his debut in1995 and 51 Tests for Australia since 1998, Lockyer found himself in the unusual position of not being involved in the NRL Premiership finals series throughout September
Prior to that, Lockyer had been in outstanding form, leading Queensland to an historic fifth straight Origin series win … form that he is certain to carry into the Four Nations event that will run from October 23 to November 13 in Australia and New Zealand.
“I will be fresher physically and mentally … that’s the plus side,” said Lockyer. “The negative is that by the first match I won’t have played a game for two-and-a-bit months.
“But I try to focus on the positives. I didn’t watch much of the final series … I used the time out from the competition to mentally freshen up.”
Following the announcement of the VB Kangaroos’ team on Monday, Lockyer told Bronco TV that he still feels “pretty privileged” whenever he hears his name read out.
“Even though I’ve been there a few times before there is always a fresh challenge in front of us,” he said. “I guess Australia’s depth will be tested a little this tournament.”
But despite the absence of injured players such as Greg Inglis, Johnathan Thurston, Michael Jennings, Justin Hodges (entire season) and Jamie Lyon, Lockyer said Australia would “without a doubt be instilled favorites”.
“Australia playing in Australia deserve to be favorites, but it’s never that easy … with New Zealand in particular,” he said.
“The Kiwis in any tournament are always dangerous. The Warriors played good football this year and that will help them. They are in good shape.
“They are going to be second favorites. The public don’t give them the credit they deserve, but the players don’t forget what they are capable of.”
Lockyer was referring to the Kiwis’ snatching the 2008 World Cup from Australia in the final at Suncorp Stadium.
He is also expecting a strong showing from England with the outstanding form of Sam Burgess and Gareth Ellis in the NRL a bonus for them. Lockyer said PNG showed in the World Cup they were capable of competing with the bigger nations and they will have improved since then.
“They (RLIF) are going in the right direction with this concept – taking the big three Australia, New Zealand and England from the Tri-Nations and introducing a fourth country,” Lockyer said.
“It is a bit of a stepping stone for the international game. It was at a point where it was struggling a bit. This a good starting point.”