Last weekend, one of the true greats of the sport played his last game of club rugby. Pretty soon, he'll play his last few games for his country and the British public will have one more chance to fully appreciate their nemesis over the last decade and more. The gravel-voiced genius that is Darren Lockyer is retiring.
Like with many Australians in many sports who had been an absolute menace to English sides, at one stage it became fashionable to boo Lockyer. The turning point may have been the first Tri-Nations final at Elland Road where he orchestrated one of the most scintillating 80 minutes of rugby seen on these shores. Finally, the realisation came that we were in the presence of a very special talent. Gradually, the realisation grew that we might not see him so often any more and that this incredible player should have his artistry cherished.
He started as a full-back, of course, but was always so much more than that. It was basically a holding role in order to get him on the field until he assumed the mantle of the greatest modern-era stand-off. For Brisbane - his only professional club - Queensland and Australia, he's led by example. He's never in the papers for the wrong reasons - and we see on a regular basis the activities of other RL stars across the Aussie press - and nobody has a bad word to say about him. A marked man throughout his career, he took the knocks, he bounced up and came back for more.
Through his career, Wayne Bennett was a major influence, as highlighted here. It's easy to think that Lockyer will go into coaching and be every bit the nemesis of England off the field as he was on it. If his teams are built in his own idiom, future coaches of England had better stock up on the aspirin as he'll be causing plenty of headaches in future.