Lockyer in the right mood for Origin - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer in the right mood for Origin

By Wayne Heming 18/05/2006 05:32:27 PM Comments (0)

Queensland's man-for-all-seasons Shaun Berrigan senses Darren Lockyer is in the right frame of mind to pull out a special State of Origin series in the Maroons' hour of need.

Queensland is desperate to avoid an unprecedented fourth-straight series loss to NSW and have gambled on seven rookies for Wednesday's opening game at Telstra Stadium.

With five debutants named in the starting side, including a young back-row with no Origin experience, Lockyer's performance and poise at five-eighth will again be vital to Queensland's success.

And bench utility Berrigan is confident his skipper is ready to fire.

"I think he is," said Berrigan when asked if Lockyer may be on the verge of a big Origin series.

"With Johnno (halfback Johnathan Thurston), (fullback) Matty Bowen and (hooker) Cameron Smith all very creative players, it will take a lot of pressure off him."

Berrigan, teammates with Lockyer at NRL club Brisbane, said the Broncos had brought in a new playing structure this season which had taken the pressure off the star five-eighth - allowing Lockyer to thrive.

"Every player (at the Broncos) knows their own game plan and Darren can worry more about his own game, it's been really good for him," said Berrigan.

Lockyer will saddle up for his 22nd Origin and his ninth series against NSW next week in arguably the best shape - mentally and physically - that he's been in for several years.

He played the 2004 series - the year in which he also took over the Maroons captaincy - with a painful rib injury and carried an arm injury last year.

This year though NSW will have to contend with a refreshed, fit Lockyer, although he is carrying some stitches to a cut eye after slipping over during a team bonding session at Queensland's Origin base camp at Coolum this week.

With Thurston in great touch at halfback and Lockyer hitting form like a Bart Cummings trained stayer on Melbourne Cup day, Queensland would fancy their chances of coming out on top against NSW duo Craig Gower and Braith Anasta should the forward packs balance each other out.

After the bitter disappointment of breaking his foot prior to last year's Tri Nations final against New Zealand, Lockyer is highly motivated to get back to his best.

He copped some criticism for an ordinary comeback game for Brisbane in its heavy round-one loss to North Queensland, when his defence was exploited.

But he has buried that performance under a mountain of kudos with a return to the kind of form that had him seriously challenging Andrew Johns for the title of world's best player a few years ago.

He makes no secret of how important winning this series is to Queensland.

"It's a big series for Queensland given the recent results and the fact that we haven't be able to win at Telstra Stadium," said Lockyer.

"It's a great challenge for all of us."

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