On most weekends in winter you will find Jamie Lyon leading the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles onto Brookvale Oval. From the hill, as the smell of hot dogs and meat pies dance through the crowd, Lyon does the same from right centre.
While Brett Stewart is the undisputed try scoring king of this grand old ground – Lyon is its keeper. This is the guy after all that retired from representative football to concentrate on his family and his club team.
Who does that?
State of Origin is a blockbuster event and the players are paid accordingly while the international game is making an overdue comeback.
Yet in his laidback country way, Lyon seems content to ignore the distant grumbles and questions about what could have been if he put his hand up for New South Wales and Australia.
It will be six seasons since Lyon last played for the Blues by the time Manly run out to play Canterbury in Round One and it’s this absence that makes it impossible to call Lyon the best centre of this generation.
Even at the peak of his powers in the 2000’s, future Immortal Andrew Johns went on record saying he needed to “dominate State of Origin”. He finally did that leading the Blues to series victory and his own place in history. Johnathan Thurston had the reverse problem. Despite bludgeoning the Blues in the Origin arena year after year, Thurston was desperate to do the same for the North Queensland Cowboys. He did it last year.
Yes Lyon has been part of a golden era for the Sea Eagles but his self-imposed exodus from the sky blue jersey stands out like a sore thumb.
The asterix will forever haunt Lyon.
Nobody is doubting his ability to beat his opponent – from the inside or to the outside. No one is doubting his ability to make those around him look better than they are and nobody is doubting how important he is to the club he’s played at since returning from St. Helens in the Super League in 2007.
In his first season back in the NRL he helped steer the Sea Eagles to the decider against the Melbourne Storm (who hold their own eternal asterix) before playing in the halves as Manly romped home 40-0 the following year. In 2011 they won it again against the Warriors before going down to the Sydney Roosters in the 2013 decider.
And before all that?
He played and won grand finals for St. Helens and was the breakout star for Parramatta in his first full-length year in the top grade on the way to his first minor premiership and grand final appearance.
But he never dominated on the representative scene.
photo source: seaeagles.com.au
In ten games for the Blues and eight games for the Kangaroos, Lyon was outmatched on most nights.
On the other hand he is one of the greatest Manly Sea Eagles of all time.
Ironically Lyon was dropped from the Blues squad in 2010 by Manly’s new coach Trent Barrett. Hardly fair considering New South Wales selected the Wee Waa local out of position in the halves. But off Lyon went probably a little relieved. It didn’t make much difference to Lyon, Manly won the premiership eighteen months later.
At the end of the day when he finally hangs up his boots and heads home to the bush, Lyon will have no regrets. People with opinions, just like this one, will argue who the best centre of the modern era was and why and should Lyon’s absence from rep jumpers be factored in.
All the while, Lyon will be up at the pub with his mates, happier than he’s ever been.
Jamie Lyon – leader and ruler of Brookvale Oval.
*One of the greatest NRL centres of the modern era.
Video Source: ddtblog1