Darren Lockyer's Wembley farewell

England v Australia

Venue:
Wembley Stadium, London
Date:
Saturday 5 November
Kick-off:
1530 GMT
Coverage:
Live on BBC One, BBC Radio 5 live sports extra and online; live text commentary and score updates on the BBC Sport website
Darren Lockyer - Australia Rugby League captain

The term legend gets thrown about a lot in modern sport, but for Australia rugby league captain Darren Lockyer it is a fitting tag.

The Kangaroos star, who has recently recovered from a broken cheekbone, is on his farewell tour after an illustrious career.

He will retire at the end of the current Four Nations campaign, but on Saturday he gets to revisit an old haunt and hopefully inspire his side to yet another victory over England.

Back in 1997, a fresh-faced 20-year-old Lockyer played at the old Wembley on his first overseas tour alongside the likes of Laurie Daley in the Super League Test series against a Great Britain team featuring Jason Robinson and Gary Connolly, among others.

Now, 14 years later and with an armful of domestic and international records and honours to his name, Lockyer gets to make one final appearance at Wembley and perhaps again be the tormentor-in-chief and demonstrate why he is possibly the greatest rugby player of either code.

"I have seen Lockyer win games single-handedly," ex-Great Britain coach and now BBC pundit Brian Noble says. "He won the 2006 Origin series for Queensland with a last-minute try and then later that year did the same thing playing with Australia in the Tri-Nations series with the winning try in extra-time against New Zealand.

"He has been one of the best rugby players of either code - he could have made it into the Australian rugby union team and graced that sport. He is someone who always performs in the big games on the big stage and deserves to be called a legend.

"I have the utmost respect for him and added to that, he is a damn nice bloke."

Since making his debut for Brisbane back in 1995, initially as a full-back, Lockyer has been a mainstay for the Broncos, winning NRL Premiership titles in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2006.

He captained the victorious 2006 Broncos side and has also led the Queensland Maroons representative side and Australia.

From being the world's best full-back, he has become one of the world's best stand-offs - winning the Golden Boot for the top international player in 2003 as a full-back and then in 2006 as a half-back.

He holds the Brisbane club records with 1,190 points and 355 appearances, has played a record 36 times in the State of Origin for Queensland, broke Ruben Wiki's world record of 55 caps in last month's Tasman Test win over New Zealand and is the Kangaroos' record try-scorer.

"He has been the backbone of Brisbane," added Noble. "He doesn't whinge and is incredibly tough. Although now he has maybe lost a yard of pace, he is still part of the Australia team on merit.

"They have got a lot of talented players and plenty of kids coming through, so it is a measure of the man and his ability that he can still earn his place on the team.

"In my time as Great Britain coach against Australia, more often than not he was the difference between the sides.

"As an opposing coach he is frustrating to watch and hundreds of coaches have tried and failed to get the better of him. But afterwards you have to marvel at his ability to come up with something special. He has been fortunate to have a good supporting cast around him, but he has still shown amazing skill."

Darren Lockyer
Lockyer celebrates another State of Origin win for Queensland

Lockyer will be keen to go out on a high in the Four Nations by appearing in the 19 November final at Elland Road before he begins the next chapter of his career.

Although BBC rugby union pundit Jeremy Guscott recently told the BBC Sport website that he would like to see Lockyer as part of the England rugby union team's coaching set-up as they build towards the 2015 World Cup, Noble does not believe that is an option the Australian is likely to pursue.

"He is Queensland's golden child and I think it would take a king's ransom to take him to rugby union - but he is not someone who is motivated by money," revealed Noble.

"The game will miss him because he epitomises all that is best in the sport. He is a true leader of outstanding quality and when he makes a mistake, it causes jaws to drop.

"Hopefully I will have a chance to bump into him and shake his hand."

Brisbane fans sad at his retirement will not have to go too far to feel his influence - Lockyer has an 85km (52.8-mile) stretch of the Warrego Highway named after him and soon he will have a bronze statue of himself erected outside their Suncorp ground alongside another great of the sport, Wally Lewis.

Modest to the last, Lockyer told the Guardian newspaper earlier this week: "It's surreal and I pinch myself at this point of my life.

"If I wind back the clock 20 years, my dreams were to try and play for the Broncos and Queensland one day. And here I am, and I've been able to play so many games for both, and they're going to unveil a statue of me next to my childhood hero. Amazing."

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