The remarkable career of Jamie Lyon was celebrated at his home ground of Brookvale Oval today.
Lyon wasn’t playing, injury saw to that, but he was farewelled in a special celebration by the Manly faithful.
It wasn’t a fairytale tale end but that wouldn’t have mattered much to Lyon. The centre has always marched to the beat of his own drum.
From giving up rep footy to spend time with his kids, to his controversial decision to walk out on Parramatta, play bush footy and then a stint in Super League, for better or worse Lyon has always been on his own man.
Few players in the modern era have accumulated the amount of silverware in both hemispheres, nor possessed the pure talent, of the outside back from Wee Waa.
Two NRL grand final titles, five NRL grand final appearances, eight Tests for Australia, 10 Origins for NSW, Super League’s Man of Steel award in 2005, a Challenge Cup win, a Super League grand final title and much more.
He burst on the NRL scene in 2000, coming off the bench for Eels. He wasted little time making an impact.
The young Lyon was full of speed and tackle-busting strength. A fresh-faced outside back who played with maturity and smarts beyond his years. He quickly became a star of the game and was the youngest-ever Kangaroo tourist in 2001, just his second year of first-grade, and averaged a try a game in the blue and gold.
Whether it was to get out of Sydney, or to get away from coach Brian Smith, the move was a polarizing one. It soured his relationship with Parramatta fans and it’s one he regrets today.
St Helens were the beneificiaries at first, the centre spending an outstanding two seasons in the north of England where he 46 tries in just 63 games. All up, Lyon won a swag of team and individual accolades, proving a hit in Super League.
It might have only been two years but Lyon was loved by Saints fans and remains revered at Langtree Park.
He returned to Australia in 2007 and reunited with the man who recruited him to Parramatta, Noel Cleal, in the northern beaches instead of at Parramatta.
I was there at Parramatta Stadium for his first game back at his old ground, now with the Sea Eagles instead of the home team. It was an afternoon full of noise, fury and drama. Some Eels fans threw coins at him that day, such was the deep vitirol directed at Lyon. But the faily unflappable centre took it in his stride, and if I remember correctly, helped Manly to victory that afternoon.
It was something he would do often. Lyon became a pivotal figure in Manly’s revival led by Des Halser. He was part of the group that drove the Sea Eagles to four grand finals and semis appearances in every season except the past two.
Such was his talent that he could play in the 6 jumper – with his kicking game, passing ability and strength as a defender – but he always preferred the space and freedom offered in the centres.
In recent years his pure pace may have dropped off but Lyon elevated his game with his skill and footballing brain. He was a winger’s dream, tormenting defences with the ball in hand and always able to get that pass away or leave a defender guessing until the final moment. Lyon and Steve Matai were a rock in the centres that Manly’s success was partly built on for nearly a decade.
His call to retire from the Kangaroos and NSW in 2010 for his young family was pillored by media and fans alike. His presence, especially for the Blues, was sorely missed.
There’s no doubt his involvement would have likely prevented Queensland dominating the Origin arena for so long. He probably would have racked up another 20 appearances each for both Australia and NSW. But he didn’t play the game for individual records or awards.
Lyon’s exit from rep footy may have been criticisied but in reality it was a brave decision and an admirable one, putting his children first. Rightly or wrongly the centre always did things his way, never wondering what others thought.
Nickamed ‘Killer’ because of his love of pig shooting, there is few greater players who have worn the maroon and white.
Lyon’s time with the Sea Eagles was a golden age for that NRL club, one that Manly fans will remember ever more fondly as the years roll on.
The quiet, laid-back country boy was always a steady, reliable figure on the northern beaches.
The 34-year old now leaves a legendary hole, both as a player and captain, that will be virtually irreplaceable at Brookvale. Lyon may be gone but is contribution, in both the NRL and Super League, will be long remembered.
Thanks for the memories Killer.