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No open season on Lockyer: coach

By Wayne Heming 20/09/2011 05:53:15 PM Comments (0)

Darren Lockyer admits he'll be fair game if he plays in Friday's NRL preliminary final with a fractured cheekbone but his Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin says that's not an open invitation for Manly to illegally target him.

Broncos five-eighth Lockyer, who trained lightly on Tuesday morning, will play against the Sea Eagles if he makes it through a special contact tackling session in Sydney on Thursday morning.

That will tell him if his surgically rebuilt left cheek is as strong as his current mindset.

Griffin said he expected Manly to target their inspirational captain - to a point.

"As long as it's not illegal," Griffin said.

"I've heard people say Manly might give him some attention or whatever and he understands that.

"As as long as it's not illegal or late, that's the game."

Griffin said he expected referees to clamp down on anything illegal.

Manly coach Des Hasler said Lockyer would inevitably get caught up in the physicality of the game.

"Whether Darren plays or not, or whether he's in the front line or not, he knows he's there and he's got to make key tackles," Hasler said.

"That's what it comes down to. We'll wait and see."

Lockyer spoke on Tuesday like a man who'd already made up his mind to ignore medical warnings and play in the match.

He's been told it would take another direct hit to the affected area for him to suffer further complications, something he believes is a minimal chance of occurring given it hasn't happened previously during his record-breaking 355-game career.

"I'm not trying to look courageous or anything," said Lockyer who was flown to Sydney in a helicopter on Tuesday afternoon to avoid the air pressure of a commercial plane flight.

"I reckon I'm capable of playing so I want to be there for the team. If I feel I'm going to be a burden to the team then I won't play.

"(The surgeon) would normally say that with this operation you would have six weeks off, so the decision's going to come down to me.

"If there's any people out there who are critical about it all, they can direct it towards me not towards anyone else, the club or the doctor."

Griffin could empathise with Lockyer given the delicate position he is in nearing the end of his glittering NRL career.

"We don't know yet if he is going to play but he genuinely wants to play and I really feel for him," Griffin said.

His left eye and cheek still swollen on Tuesday, Lockyer was asked if he would tackle a team-mate in training if asked to.

His answer suggested his 356th game will take place on Friday.

"Yeah, I would have given it a go," he said.

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