The Sultan of Suncorp Stadium
Rugby league immortal Wally Lewis was known as 'The King' and the 'Emperor of Lang Park'. Maybe it is time to crown Darren Lockyer the 'Sultan of Suncorp Stadium' as he prepares to become the most capped player in Origin history in the final season of his record-breaking career.
The title would be more than fitting for the 34-year-old Australian, Queenland and Broncos captain, who told NRL.com in his exclusive Origin live chat on Wednesday that he grew up wanting to be 'The King'.
"Playing backyard footy I always wanted to be Wally Lewis. He was a hero to me for what he did for Queensland," Lockyer said.
"When I got into league in the mid to late 80s 'The King' was at his highest powers and he captured my imagination. I used to run around the yard and imitate Wally ... he was always someone I looked up to."
Lockyer is currently in camp preparing for a record-equalling 34th Origin appearance (alongside Allan Langer) in Game 1 of the 2011 Harvey Norman State of Origin Series at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday (May 25). It will be one of many records he is set to break in his swansong season as the XXXX Queensland Maroons chase a sixth successive Origin series win.
Lockyer plans to instruct his Queensland teammates not to let the emotion of his final Origin series overshadow the job at hand against a hungry and determined new-look NSW VB Blues team. His approach is unchanged from previous series he has played in since his debut in 1998.
"To be honest, it doesn't feel any different," he said. "When the full-time siren goes in game III it might sink in.
"I'm just focused on that game ahead of me. We have a big challenge in front of us, and I'm looking forward to Game 1."
Lockyer did admit to still feeling nervous before a game, despite having played 33 Origin matches, 55 Tests for Australia and over 340 games for the Broncos in the past 16 years.
"I get nervous before every game," he said. "The bigger the occasion, the more nerves. You can't do much about the game until you get out there."
Lockyer believes the rivalry between NSW Origin coach Ricky Stuart and his Queensland counterpart Mal Meninga, who were former Canberra teammates, will be intriguing.
"They spent a long time playing together and they know each other's personality really well," he said.
"I've been coached by Ricky as well. He is a very intense and competitive character. It is an interesting rivalry."
Lockyer believes the loss of injured experienced centres Greg Inglis and Justin Hodges will not change Queensland's approach to the series opener.
"Hodges and Inglis just need to get the ball as much as they can, (Willie) Tonga and Dane (Nielsen) are very good defensively and out of dummy half. While Billy (Slater) is still there the game plan won't change that much because we have so many attacking options."
NSW debutants Jamie Soward and Josh Dugan represent the future of the Blues, he said, but no individual player will be singled out for special attention.
"I think at Origin level, it's dangerous to focus on one player. You look across their team, (Akuila) Uate, (Mark) Gasnier, Soward, Dugan ... we won't focus on one player. The most beneficial thing we can do is put a lot of pressure on the halves' kicking game.
"Kicking is a big part of Origin and both (Mitchell) Pearce and Soward, if given time, have great kicking games. We need to pressure them.
"I can't see us sending more traffic to Soward's side. His kicking game and of late his running game has become very good. Both those attributes of his game we'll do a bit of homework on and try to reduce his impact.
"I got to play with Josh in the All Stars and he is very quick to the football and brings the ball back well. He'll handle the pressure fine. Every debutant will be nervous, but he'll be fine.
"You have to start somewhere. I think Dugan and Soward could be the future of their side."
"Origin is easily the toughest form of the game," Lockyer said, adding he wouldn't like to see any changes to the format, such as introducing a New Zealand or Pacific team.
"Origin should always remain NSW v QLD ... it is so succesful how it is and shouldn't be tampered with," he said.
"But I do believe they could do something similar in NZ where the North plays the South or something like that. But for me I just love the traditional rivalry of NSW v QLD."