Like many a battle-hardened rugby league veteran has been forced to do at the end of a grueling career, Darren Lockyer has flagged his intentions to go under the knife – once he hangs up those famous boots for the final time. After all, 16 years of rigorous, elite-level rugby league have aged his once lithe, youthful body. Happens to the best of ’em.
But there’s a twist. Lockyer is not getting a knee arthroscopy to fulfil that clichéd dream of “kicking the ball around with my kids”; nor is he undergoing corrective nasal surgery, thanks to a string of broken noses, to fix that snoring problem at the request of his long-suffering missus, Loren.
No. Instead, the Queensland icon has booked an appointment to fix his grizzled, gravelly voice so he can pursue his original dream.
Pop stardom, that is.
Having broken into ThePublicApology’s news room (we have no idea how he got in), Darren moon-walks across the velvet carpets to drop the exclusive – or rather, his behind – right into this reporter’s lap.
“Every young boy in Roma dreamt of being the next Michael Jackson, but with gigs harder to come by than an untouched goat’s arsehole, rugby league just sort of took over,” he admits.
Lockyer’s croaky voice has been attributed over the years to a nasty tackle back in 2004, which resulted in a floating bone pressing against his vocal chords. But these are rumours the 34-year-old is keen to quash.
“Nah mate, we just put [the gravelly voice] down to a high shot for PR reasons. It actually came about after an away game against the Cowboys. I was alone in my hotel room feeling a bit lonesome – this is before I met Loren, obviously – and got a bit too nasty on myself with the old belt-around-the-neck trick. Best wank I ever had! But yeah, I wrecked my voice in the process.”
Has he any regrets?
“Not about the auto-erotic stuff no – that shit’s great. But if I had my time again I would definitely have chosen singing over rugby league,” he says. With a wistful twinkle in his eye, he adds: “Sometimes I would skip training and just belt out show tunes into my hairbrush in front of Mum’s mirror. Dad was a bit worried my football was going to suffer, but Mum was fully supportive. I just wish I was brave enough to see it through.”
“I would put on the craziest costumes,” he laughs. “Because that’s part of pop, you know? The outfits. One day I would be Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, the next Madonna with the cone-tits. I’d get [his brother] Matt to eat a couple of Sunny-boys and then strap them to my chest. Bit sticky, but they looked the part. Bingo [the family pig] would usually lick me clean after, you know, with the water shortages and all.”
Any signature outfit ideas for himself?
“Well I’ve got my two Golden Boots, so I think I might go with them. Darren “Golden Boots” Lockyer – I like the sound of that. Or I might drop the given name altogether and just go by Golden Boots. Yeah, I like that…”
Draping a pink feather-boa over this reporter’s neck and strutting across the floor, the limber Lockyer moves two heavy superior antique mahogany desks with consummate ease, clearing space for an impromptu live performance. Having captured my attention, he begins fight-dancing, meanwhile screaming random profanities presumably learned from a lifetime of rugby league.
These are not the delicate moves I would have expected, given our previous discourse, but quite frankly I am too petrified to say anything.
Of course, Darren is not the first future Australian Idol to boast rich rugby league roots. ThePublicApology recently profiled Sean Ikin’s [brother of Australian and Queensland representative, Ben] debut album Gallery of Murmurs. The record was widely hammered by pensioners and critics alike; nonetheless, once Darren calms I ask him if there is any chance of a duet?
“No. Darren sings with Darren and that’s it. I’ve been a team player all my life and now it’s time to play for Darren.”
He stares at me intensely across the room. I begin to feel uncomfortable. In a moment of madness I bring up Andrew Johns and his two Golden Boot awards. The best player in the world. Twice.
“Why would you bring him up?”
I just thought it topical.
He screams in that distinctive trademarked husky voice: “Don’t you ever f*cking talk to me about that c—!”
The Queensland captain rushes across the room, showing the speed and elusiveness he’d built a career on. He grabs me by the neck and throws me against the wall.
“That pudgy little c— is nothing! You hear me? NOTHING!”
I wriggle hopelessly, concerned that this grapple tackle will lead to a floating bone of my own.
But in that moment, security comes rushing into the room in a bid to tear the rabid star off me. He clings on to my neck like a crab clinging on for life. Eventually, I am freed from his vice-like grip. It takes six heavy-set Polynesian men to do so.
He bellows at nobody in particular: “Who’s the best player in the world now, bitch!?” That wistful sparkle in his eyes now replaced by a maniacal glee.
They drag him out, his athletic body finally limp. “He called me a “black c—”, I hear him plead, as he’s towed out the door.
I sit down rubbing my neck and pour myself a strong Irish whiskey. I vocalise a few common phrases to test my voice.
I am O.K.
By Al McClintock