Boyd determined to remain Kangaroos' No.1
Kangaroos fullback Darius Boyd has vowed to make it difficult for Billy Slater to ever regain his Queensland and Australia No.1 jerseys as the most complete season of his career carries into the representative scene this weekend.
Fresh off receiving the Paul Morgan Medal as Brisbane's best player for 2016, Boyd will line up at fullback against New Zealand in Perth on Saturday night, just the fourth time in 19 Tests that he has played in his preferred position.
It took 23 games and 16 tries for Queensland on the wing before Boyd was this year entrusted with the custodian's position and he believes that trust shown by selectors enabled him to take his game to another level again in the back-half of the season.
In the wake of Melbourne's grand final defeat to the Sharks, Slater stated that mentally he is up to the challenge of returning to the NRL after two years out but question marks remain over his suspect shoulders.
Even if Slater does make a successful return with the Storm next season, Boyd is determined to complicate the decisions of selectors with a strong Four Nations campaign in England later this month.
"It's all well and good to get picked but you need to play well," Boyd told NRL.com.
"If I play well at fullback and hopefully we win the tournament then I can be happy in that and hopefully give the selectors a headache for next year."
With life settled off the field and the belief that came from performing at fullback at the highest level, the 29-year-old touted as Brisbane's next captain says that he will remember 2016 as his best year to date.
"I don't know if I've had a better season and with the rep footy as well I think as a whole it's probably been my best season," said Boyd, who played all three games at fullback for the Maroons.
"It's probably not the acknowledgement [of being selected at fullback] but knowing myself that I can do it. Knowing that I can get picked and play fullback at the highest level.
"I've always played wing at the highest level but to be able to play fullback there and not only get picked but play well – I thought I contributed really well to both Australia and Queensland – gave me a lot of satisfaction and also a lot of confidence to be able to carry that into the second half of the season."
The Kangaroos squad for the Four Nations is littered with stars capable of playing fullback but there is no question Boyd has established himself this year as the game's premier No.1.
In 25 games for the Broncos this season his ball-playing was exemplified by his 19 line-break assists and 15 try assists, he scored nine tries and made 62 tackle busts and came up with just two errors from 700 touches of the footy.
Broncos, Queensland and Kangaroos legend Darren Lockyer saw Boyd come into first grade as a quiet 18-year-old in 2006 and said the professionalism with which he now displays has been a trademark since his debut.
"First year in he wins a premiership and I thought, 'This kid's lucky'," Lockyer said.
"It's unique for a player so young to be so professional. Ever since he's come into grade he's always been a player that has shown maturity and rarely made mistakes, even as a kid.
"You watch him now and he's still the ultimate professional but he's got great leadership as well."