IT FELT just like home for rugby league royal Darren Lockyer, when he took time out to visit fans at Dysart Junior Rugby League Club last week.
The One Key contractor company ambassador was a on a whirlwind tour of the Central Queensland mining town, signing countless autographs and inspiring footy-mad kids around the town with his presence and a few one-on-one kicking tips.
"It's always fun putting smiles on kids' faces, just knowing that I was one of those kids once," Lockyer told the Central Queensland News.
"It was very inspirational when I saw a player that played for Queensland coming out to Roma… it was a real buzz for me as a child and something I will always remember.
"Hopefully these boys will go away and talk about it for a while yet."
With his playing days now behind him, the former Brisbane Broncos, State of Origin and Australian test star was relishing the chance to take a new direction in his career.
"It's been good, I'm really enjoying my life so far after footy," he said.
"Announcing my retirement early allowed me to plan ahead, so I think I've got a good balance at the moment between family and work."
Ironically it seems, there was often more interest in him as a brand post-career than when he was playing - which as many prominent sportsmen and women could testify, has a tendency to lead down the path of over-exposure.
But as only a true legend could, Lockyer modestly downplayed the hype and said it wasn't something he expected to last.
"Last year was a big year after retirement and the last 12 months has been pretty busy with all that sort of stuff," he said.
"But it will slow down, that's for sure.
"They are all honours and something that I don't take for granted and very much feel privileged."
His latest endorsement as the face of a special edition rum bottle he described as a "one-off" and certainly not something he would be pursuing in the future.
He did however outline intent to further develop his personal business ventures while maintaining a presence in the media.
"I have business interests in and around Brisbane and wish to develop them further," he said.
"But I'll always be part of the game in some capacity and I'm enjoying my work with Channel 9.
"That's something I see myself in five years time still doing, a bit of commentary with the team."
This was not Lockyer's first visit to the Highlands, having flown in for a Queensland Maroons fan's day mid last year, but it was his first visit to the coalface. He spent a few hours getting a feel for the mining industry while in Dysart, swapping the football for a hard-hat, and an educational visit to an open-cut coal mine.
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