Lockyer warns of Johns Origin precedent - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer warns of Johns Origin precedent

By Wayne Heming 27/03/2007 06:17:23 PM Comments (0)

Australian captain Darren Lockyer would welcome Andrew Johns back to State of Origin but warns it could set a "dangerous precedent" if the champion Newcastle half is exempt from Test duty next month against New Zealand.

Johns, who had a memorable Origin farewell in 2005, has indicated he'd consider coming out of representative retirement to play for NSW against Queensland in this year's Origin series but not for Australia.

The Blues have major problems in the halves with Johns (retired) and Trent Barrett (UK) seemingly out of the picture.

Under ARL rules, players are required to make themselves available for all representative matches unless given a dispensation.

Lockyer attempted to be diplomatic when asked if Johns should declare himself available for Test duty next month if he wants to play Origin again.

"I'm not just saying this because Joey plays for NSW and I'm a Queenslander," said Lockyer at the ARL's official launch of its representative season at Suncorp Stadium on Tuesday.

"You've got to be very careful ... if he makes himself available for State of Origin and not Australia you set a precedent then which could be dangerous."

Rather than set a precedent the move would in fact be the continuation of a trend started by former Manly lock Ben Kennedy last year.

Kennedy retired from rep football in January of 2006 before declaring his interest in playing for Australia in last year's Anzac Test alongside good mate Johns, who was making his Test farewell.

Kennedy was granted permission to play against the Kiwis and then was excused from playing for NSW in the Origin series which followed.

Johns' availability for Test football may be inconsequential with North Queensland's Johnathan Thurston in such sizzling form and rated by his Cowboy's coach and NSW mentor Graham Murray as the best player in the competition at the moment.

"Johnathan is playing really well, but that's another issue," said Lockyer.

"In Origin, you want the best players playing and that includes Andrew Johns, but you have to be careful as well."

Murray would love Johns to make himself available for Origin.

"It would have to be Andrew Johns's call with the rider that he's in good form and healthy and that he's willing to play if picked to play," said Murray who dropped last year's Origin series 2-1.

"Andrew Johns is arguably the best player we've seen, up there with that man Lockyer as the best players of the modern game.

"I'm sure he'll make the correct decision if he's available."

Queensland coach Mal Meninga had no problems about going up against Johns in an Origin series.

"It would be great to have Andrew play. I think, it would be good for the game and good for the series, said the former 32-game Origin great.

"We (Queensland) wouldn't be over excited about him playing."

Johns' Newcastle teammate Danny Buderus, who attended Tuesday's launch is his capacity as NSW Origin captain, wasn't giving too much away about a possible Origin comeback.

"Joey had a tremendous end to his (representative) career, and he knows how good it was," said Buderus, still serving a suspension from 2006 but hoping to be named Australian hooker next month.

"I don't think he'd come back unless he was fighting fit and the Knights hadn't lost a game and he didn't have a bruise.

"Nobody's got a crystal ball but hopefully he's going to go on, but he won't be able to make that decision for a couple of months."

Meanwhile Lockyer said calls by outspoken Bulldogs forward enforcer Willie Mason for Origin players to go on strike to force a salary cap review were "a bit extreme".

"Willie has always been known for his statements and I think he's come on fairly strong, but he may have started a topic that needed to be raised," said Lockyer.

"To talk about players striking is a bit extreme, I think there are other avenues we could probably go down.

"It's hard to form an opinion on something we don't know.

"We don't know what the game makes, what the game generates, that's the hard part.

"As players we really don't want to go there and ask for money the game can't support."

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