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5 days ago
Sometime in the next 24 hours or so Darren Lockyer will have to decide whether or not he is to extend his distinguished representative career.
He has not been short of advice on whether he should do so. The majority of the advice has been to the effect that he should make himself available for both the May Test match and the Origin series.
It is interesting that one view he is likely to rate above most came from his former teammate, Shane Webcke, on ABC radio yesterday.
The Webcke view was expressed with characteristic candour...and it was to the effect that Lockyer needs to draw down the curtain on both his Test and Origin careers and focus on his club role.
Until recently, I thought Lockyer would go around one more season, and most certainly make himself available for one more Test match.
But when you look at his form - and more particularly that of the Brisbane Broncos - you would have to think the odds now favour a total focus on his club, which is really in a crisis state on the field, and not without serious problems off it.
The difficulty great players have - just as great sportsmen and women in all fields have - is deciding when the time is right to call it quits. Far too many hang on too long, and as a result their distinguished record tends to be diminished somewhat as a result.
Sir Donald Bradman chose the timing of his retirement carefully - even though there were no signs that his extraordinary batting skill was in decline, notwithstanding his failure in his final innings. I am not comparing Lockyer with Bradman - but the fact remains that the timing of retirement is an important factor for the greats of any sport.
Lockyer's place in rugby league history is assured. At the representative level he has nothing to prove...50 tests (four more than anyone else); 29 tests as captain (two more than Clive Churchill); 33 test tries (equal to Ken Irvine); 30 State of Origin matches for Queensland (second only to Allan Langer); and 15 matches as Queensland captain (second only to Wally Lewis).
I am grateful to the Courier Mail's Karl deKroo for that summary, taken from his column today. In his comment on Lockyer's decision deKroo came to the unqualified conclusion that Lockyer has little choice but to dedicate all his energies to one cause - keeping his struggling clubs extraordinary run in finals alive in 2010.
Make no doubt about it, the Broncos are in trouble, serious trouble. They are at the bottom of the premiership table on percentages - and they face the Dragons in an away game this weekend, then the Storm at home!
The Broncos traditionally struggle mid-year, thanks to origin and test demands. I don't expect that will be a factor this season, with the Broncos likely to have no more than a couple of representatives, if that!
The Broncos are playing poorly at a time when the Brisbane Lions are performing well.
The Lions drew a full house - 36,000 - in a 7PM game on Thursday night, and the way they are playing they will continue to draw well. The cross over between the codes might not be great, but the Broncos will find their crowd numbers will collapse if they continue to play the way they have been.
The Lions saw their crowds drop by something like one third when they were struggling for a couple of seasons. If the Broncos don't lift their game their numbers might drop by even more. When you are trying to draw crowds above 30,000 week in and week out you have to be nearer to the top than the bottom of the premiership table!
Back to Darren Lockyer and his future. He is 33 and has been playing at the highest levels in the NRL, Super League, and even the NSWRL premiership, since round 13 in 1995 - 319 matches!
He has played in four grand final winning teams - most players are lucky to play in one in their career!
On balance, I think he will call it quits, and that will be the right call if he does so