Stats Insider: Darren Lockyer's brilliant career
Brisbane, Queensland and Australian captain Darren Lockyer plays his 350th first grade game this week, assuming the record for the most appearances in the history of the game. So it is only fitting we reflect on his awesome statistics over the years to give an insight into the class and quality of one of the game’s greatest ever players.
While generally his numbers have fallen away as he becomes an older but smarter player and allows other to take control, 2011 has been a vintage season – at least in terms of try assists. With 19 for the year to date, Lockyer ranks third in the NRL and it’s his best output since his last premiership win in 2006.
Could it be the legend is setting up a fairytale finish?
Compare it to the rest of the NRL – sure Johnathan Thurston (21) and Benji Marshall (20) are ahead of him but he is schooling young guns including New South Wales halves Mitchell Pearce and Jamie Soward and veterans such as Scott Prince.
There is no doubt he’s lifting his performance with the knowledge the end is nigh.
It goes without saying that Lockyer has been a brilliant player since making his debut of the bench against Parramatta in Round 13, 1995. He was a little on the scrawny side back then and fresh out of Roma, but it was obvious he was a sublime talent.
He played fullback and became the world’s best in the position. Then years later he was switched to five-eighth… and became the best there also.
He is now in his 17th and last season in the NRL and a decent chance to go out a winner as his Broncos gear up for the finals starting in a month. He equalled league greats Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies on 349 games last week but this week against the Cowboys he takes the record outright.
The sad thing about delving into Locky’s career numbers is we can’t compare him to those five-eighths, and fullbacks for that matter, we all loved before him. The likes of Wally Lewis, Brad Fittler, Laurie Daley, Lamb, Brett Kenny… or even someone as far back as Clive Churchill. Detailed statistics only started being compiled in 1998, which means we even lose Locky’s first three seasons.
The good news though is that those who come in the future will have something to strive for.
Let’s break down his numbers…
Lockyer has 349 NRL games to his name – but don’t forget he has also played 36 matches for Queensland, 55 Tests for Australia, four Super League Tests, two super league games for Queensland, two All-Stars matches and countless trials!
His least productive season was his rookie year when he played 11 games (1995) while he notched a staggering 27 games in 2001. So far 11 of his 17 seasons have included 20 or more games, with 2011 a good chance of becoming the 12th year if he stays injury-free. Knock on wood!
As far as basic try-scoring goes Lockyer has bagged 121 four-pointers, equal 22nd on the all-time list. The total ranks second all-time for the Broncos. When the Broncos won the premiership in 1998 Lockyer crossed 19 times, a season high for him. He touched down for 15 tries in 2002 and 13 in another premiership year in 2006 but since 2007 he has added just 14 tries. His record in a single match is three tries, an achievement he made only once, but he has 17 separate doubles.
Locky was (and probably still is) an accomplished goal-kicker when he first came onto the scene. He has 341 goals to his name although he hasn’t kicked one since 2007. His most prolific year was 1998 when he landed 98.
Lockyer has guided over 20 field-goals in his career; three of those have come this season. In 2006 he scored a career-high five during the year.
Bringing it all together the inspirational leader has 1186 points in his career so far, 28th most of all time. In 2008 he managed just nine points, a career low, but in 1998 he tallied a massive 272, a Brisbane record. It also ranks as the 10th most prolific season of all-time.
Note: the following stats do not include numbers for seasons 1995, ’96 and ’97. Official stats were not taken before the 1998 season. Lockyer played 51 games during this period.
Obviously playing as a fullback early in his career Lockyer was not required to make many tackles – he made just 72 in 1999 – but since moving to five-eighth he has been forced into the tough stuff. In 2006 he made 463. Over his past 14 seasons he has made 3,164 tackles. That’s an average of 226 a season or 10.6 a match over the period.
In the interest of fairness we will point out Locky averaged 2.6 missed tackles a match so far in his career – and that’s exactly his missed-tackles average so far in 2011. To put that in perspective, Benji Marshall and the much younger Kieran Foran each average 2.9 misses this year.
In his brilliant 1998 season Lockyer posted a punishing 38 line-breaks, the most in any of his recorded seasons. In the 14 years since he has totalled 203. Unbelievably he played 17 games in 2008 without adding a single line-break. His average over the 14 years was 14.5 a season.
As Lockyer has aged his running metres have dropped. Now, instead of making the breaks on his own, he is wise enough to set up others instead. His high for a season was 2002 when he busted out 3269 metres from 24 games, or 136 a game, but his best average in a season was the following season when he darted out 156.3 metres each week from 20 games. His low for a year was 450 metres in 2007.
In his past 14 seasons Lockyer has run 23,145 metres with ball in hand. This averages out to 77.7 metres a match.
Moving on to kick metres, Lockyer has pumped the ball off the boot 1992 times in the past 14 seasons, gaining 54.185 kilometres. That works out to 181.8 metres a game over his past 298 appearances. Phenomenal stuff.
With less of an emphasis on running obviously comes less offloads but Lockyer has been the catalyst of plenty of second-phase play over the years. In 2001 the mercurial backline star offered 70 offloads in the year. His lowest output came in 2008 when he managed just seven. Over the past 14 years Locky has pumped out 384 offloads, or 27.4 a season, or 1.3 a match.
Line-break Assists, Try Assists, Tackle-breaks and 40/20s
Lockyer has 140 line-break assists and 204 try assists to his name over his illustrious career. We delved into his try assist output above; and obviously he had more in the early years not included in these numbers. As far as tackle-breaks goes, mark him down for 346. And 40/20s? Nine.
In the interest of full disclosure Lockyer has tallied 417 errors (just over one a game – hey, nobody’s perfect) and has been penalised 61 times (just 0.2 per game).
So there you have it: the raw data Darren Lockyer will be measured by. But the reality is numbers cannot possibly tell the full story. Lockyer’s sublime skills can’t be quantified in black and white. His command of a game is brilliant; he slows it down, speeds it up… he has it on a string. Among other things he has been the master of switching play to the blindside for years. He also ran/runs the football on the last tackle for a positive result better than anyone most of us have ever seen. Those of us who’ve lived through his 350-game career are blessed and we will be talking about ‘Locky’ for decades to come.