Origin fever hits
IF Dave Taylor didn't have big shoes to fill already, they just got a whole lot bigger.
Outgoing Queensland Maroons captain Darren Lockyer rated the Coal Train as one of the best in the business in a frank interview during his Emerald stay for the Maroons Flood Relief Fundraiser.
“He's probably the most talented prop I've seen,” Lockyer said before heading out for a brief training run at McIndoe Park on Wednesday.
In a glowing appraisal of the former Blackwater Crushers junior, Lockyer said he was an invaluable asset for the Maroons with plenty of skill up his sleeve should the need arise.
“We're hoping not too many chips and chases come out on Wednesday,” Lockyer joked. “But he does provide that X-factor and while we all would like to see that skill and talent, I think he knows the priority is that he does his job on the field and then all that other stuff becomes a bonus if he gets the chance to pull it off.
“I think what everyone wants to see is that he is out there to roll his sleeves up and that's what Origin is about.
“If he is able to get his core game right he can reach his potential.”
Both Origin teams have been forewarned by refereeing officials that the speed at the breakdown would be ramped up, which Lockyer saw as playing right into the hands of Taylor.
“They say they are going to police the play-the-ball more and increase the speed, and for a bloke like Dave, that probably works in his favour,” he said.
“New South Wales has picked a team which suits that up-tempo play and we've got to work out ways to combat that.”
A veteran of more than 30 Origin appearances, Lockyer needed no convincing of the importance of this year's series.
“We know that we've got the weight of the state on our shoulders and we just want to do well for Queensland,” he said. “This series is no more important than any other but sometimes I think you take success for granted after you've been winning for a while.
“We've done it before (won the series) and we can do it again.”
Before training, the Queensland team was swamped by adoring fans in a street parade through the town's centre. Lockyer described it as chaos from start to finish.
“You couldn't see an end, there were just so many people trying to push through and you're telling the next player to push up so you could move up… it really was a bit overwhelming.”
He said visits to regional areas was integral to maintaining those dreams in the next generation of players.
“It does inspire them to want to be in our shoes one day and that's what it did for me as a kid. Alfie Langer was the player I looked up to when I was younger… and then later on to pull on the jersey and play with him was pretty surreal.”
On the verge of retirement Lockyer said it would be a burden off his shoulders.
“I'll still be involved in the game but I'm looking forward to getting away from the pressure of it (football).”