Lockyer and Townsville friends again - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Lockyer and Townsville friends again

Wayne Heming 13/08/2011 01:37:51 PM Comments (0)

Some of the most harrowing moments of Darren Lockyer's career were suffered in Townsville, but the Brisbane great and Dairy Farmers Stadium are finally friends again.

Lockyer's uncanny relationship with the ground began in 1997 when he celebrated his 50th first grade match alongside the likes of Allan Langer, Gorden Tallis, Steve Renouf, Wendell Sailor, Kevin Walters and Brad Thorn in a Super League semi final.

Fourteen years and 300 games later, Lockyer created rugby league history on Friday night by celebrating his record 350th game at the venue - with a 34-16 win - to eclipse the previous mark shared by Terry Lamb and Steve Menzies.

But in between there were plenty of moments to forget in the far north for Lockyer, and there was a certain irony and sweetness to claiming the individual milestone at a ground which had been fairly unkind to him throughout his career.

He was part of the first Brisbane side to lose to North Queensland - a gripping 10-0 defeat in Gorden Tallis' last game for the club, which saw the Broncos bundled out of the 2004 finals.

Lockyer's Dairy Farmers curse struck again in 2007 when he suffered the worst injury of his career playing against the Cowboys and he required a total knee reconstruction.

He didn't play a game of the 2008 State of Origin series as a result and it took some of 2009 to regain full confidence in his knee.

He remembers that period as the darkest time of his career.

Then last season Lockyer was crunched in a brutal tackle by Cowboys enforcer Luke O'Donnell at Dairy Farmers, sustaining a popped rib cartilage three weeks out from the NRL finals.

Brisbane struggled without him, eventually missing the NRL finals for the times in 18 seasons.

"I was a bit nervous coming out thinking about the injuries I've picked up here so I'm pretty happy to have got through the game," admitted Lockyer after he finished a winner on his big night thanks to a hat-trick of tries to young fullback dynamo Josh Hoffman.

Lockyer would have loved to have broken the game's record in front of his Suncorp Stadium faithful, but it was smiles all round in Townsville anyway.

Wendy Schneekloth and nine of her family members, all wearing Broncos jumpers, provided one of the highlights - they drove 800 kilometres from Normanton in the state's northwest in a convoy just to be there for the historic event.

The family normally make the trek to Brisbane when the Broncos host the Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium, but the floods put an end to that trip this year.

"We've always been Broncos fans," said Jade Parry who recently turned 21.

"As long as we've been watching footy, he (Lockyer) has been there.

"He's a great role model."

The foyer of the Broncos' Townsville hotel was packed with fans early on Saturday morning just hoping to get a signature or a picture with Lockyer before the players headed back to Brisbane.

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