It took two days to convince Wayne Bennett to give 18-year-old Roma rookie Darren Lockyer his first-grade break with the Broncos 16 years ago … and just two training sessions for Bennett to decide that he would be staying.

Now, 349 games later, Lockyer is still with the Broncos, and today has been named to make an all-time record-breaking 350th NRL appearance when Brisbane plays the Cowboys in their Round 23 local derby at Dairy Farmers Stadium on Friday night.

Lockyer had played just eight games for the Broncos' under-19 team in the Brisbane Rugby League competition when he got his call-up to make his NRL debut against the Eels at Parramatta Stadium in Round 13 on June 25, 1995.

The Broncos, missing injured Australian five-eighth Kevin Walters, won the match 60-14 with Bennett using Lockyer off the bench at five-eighth, backing up from his debut in the reserve grade game immediately beforehand.

The Broncos' under-19 coach at the time Steve Calder vividly recalls how the week unfolded for the Roma recruit who came to the club that season with the rap that he was “potentially a very good player”.

“On the Monday before the game Wayne Bennett put the team list on the board as he always did and asked for any comments from the coaching staff,” said Calder, who is now the Queensland President of Men of League.

“Kevin Walters was out injured and he had named a replacement five-eighth but I suggested to Wayne that he should take Darren Lockyer up … and Wayne said ‘the young five-eighth in your grade?’ He knew he was a talent. Ivan Henjak was the reserve grade coach and he backed me up.

“Wayne said to leave it with him and he would think about it. On Wednesday morning he phoned me and said he was going to take Darren Lockyer. I remember him saying once he had had two training sessions with him that I might not get him back.”

In true Bennett-style, he kept Lockyer’s first-grade debut quiet and even played him in the Broncos reserve grade game immediately before bringing him off the bench in first grade.

Lockyer retained his spot once Walters returned from injury three weeks later and never went back to Calder’s under-19 side, but he did play the only other two reserve grade games of his career that season.

Calder wasn’t disappointed to lose his star; he was expecting it to happen sooner rather than later.

“It was a matter of when … he was always going to make it,” he said. “You didn’t have to be a super coach to recognise he was a super talent. But more so than his talent was the maturity of the guy. He was so disciplined, even in his lifestyle then.

“He was an automatic choice for captain. His first eight games were outstanding. The thing that stands out most in my mind is something that has never left him … he is such a team player.

“We had some easy wins in those games. Darren Lockyer could have scored a lot more tries than he did but he moved the ball on to other players … he was totally unselfish.

“The other thing that stood out was in his first six games he did not make an error. Some games we won by 50 points and he would have been entitled to make a mistake.”

Sixteen years on, some things haven't changed; 34-year-old Lockyer is still impressing, adding a sixth successive State of Origin trophy to his growing list of honours in his swansong season. Will the fairytale be complete with a fifth Broncos premiership? Time will tell.