Bellamy backs Lockyer to lift for Qld - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bellamy backs Lockyer to lift for Qld

By Wayne Heming 08/04/2010 05:19:40 PM Comments (0)

NSW State of Origin coach Craig Bellamy has predicted Darren Lockyer will be a major threat in his swansong for Queensland after Blues greats questioned the Maroons skipper's decision to play on for another series.

Two former Blues have claimed Queensland's champion five-eighth will be out of his depth playing Origin and should have hung up his representative boots.

Former NSW hooker Benny Elias and Parramatta great Brett Kenny are leading the latest Lockyer "too old, too slow" campaign, declaring the 33-year-old Brisbane skipper past his use by date - at least for the cracking pace of Origin football.

"I've been watching him closely and he looks slow," said the controversial Elias, a Maroons antagonist in 22 Origins between 1985-94.

"If he is struggling at NRL level, you can multiply that by two for Origin."

Kenny, who tangled with opposite number Wally Lewis in 17 Origins during the early 1980s, said with Lockyer struggling to perform in an out-of-form Broncos side, he should have announced his retirement from the game's most physical stage.

It's nothing new for the unofficial NSW camp to question Lockyer, with his leadership ability and defence coming under fire in recent years even as Queensland rolled to a record four straight series' wins under Mal Meninga.

But the man who has most to lose - apart from Lockyer - NSW coach Craig Bellamy, disagrees with the theorists, suggesting Lockyer's match-winning abilities have been dulled little by father time.

Bellamy said Lockyer may have slowed a little over the years but his presence was important to Queensland.

"When you play at that high level, the experience that he's got and obviously he's still got the passion and the desire, he's a valuable package for Australia and to Queensland," Bellamy said.

Lockyer's NRL stats this season are clearly on the decline, but last-placed Brisbane's poor form in the opening four rounds has undoubtedly contributed to that.

Lockyer isn't making many line breaks, his metres have dropped, along with his try assists, and defensively he has some shortcomings.

But Bellamy, a former coach at the Broncos, who has transformed Melbourne into the NRL's new super club, cringes every time the Lockyer detractors surface.

Having spent so much time with him at the Broncos as Wayne Bennett's assistant, Bellamy knows only too well how Lockyer reacts to such criticism.

"From a NSW perspective I would have been much happier had he given it away," Bellamy said.

"But at the end of the day I expected him to go on because it's hard to go past that kind of experience.

"At the moment the Broncos are going through a tough time and he's down a bit on form.

"But sometimes that can be a bit of a mirage because when you're team's not going well, it's hard for the individual to go well.

"But when he gets back with all these great players who he knows so well on that big stage, he will be so valuable for them.

"In a few years he won't be able to do it so I can understand where his decision came from."

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