For Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, the upcoming Legends of League tournament at Gosford has a full-circle feel.
The Tamworthian will play for Brisbane in the six-team event at Central Coast Stadium on November 18 – the club he represented as a junior and where he made his NRL debut in 2004.
His great friend, former Broncos and Raiders teammate Neville Costigan, phoned him and urged him to play in a happening that will feature some of the code’s biggest names from yesteryear, including Willie Mason, Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies, Wendell Sailor and Gorden Tallis.
“I saw big Willie the other day, down at Newcastle. If I’m 120 kilograms, he’s got to be 130kg,” Learoyd-Lahrs said. “I reckon there might be a couple of blokes out there huffing and puffing.”
Learoyd-Lahrs, a Farrer alumni who played for Australia and NSW, ended his three-club, 120-game NRL career in 2015.
He still looks in great shape, but admits there are times when his body betrays him due to carnage inflicted on it during a 12-year NRL career.
Despite that, he is glad Costigan called.
He said: “I think it’s a good chance to play football with a bunch of blokes that I haven’t played with for a long time, catch up with a lot of guys you haven’t seen for a long time, and obviously it’s a new concept and it should be interesting.
“It’s more serious [than other Legends of League concepts] by the look of it. They’ve actually targeted guys who are either relatively new to retirement or who’ve kept themselves in decent nick.
“I’d expect they’re looking for a quality standard of football.”
As reported in The Northern Daily Leader last week, Learoyd-Lahrs has turned his attention to cricket post-retirement and will use that to help him prepare physically for the Legends of League. He is “looking forward to it” – seeing “how it all unfolds”.
“I don't put expectations on myself anymore. I just want to go out and enjoy myself,” he said, adding: “If you’ve been a professional in anything, you still want to hold yourself to a certain standard.
“And that’s the reason why I don't even play local football anymore, because I know I’m nowhere near the standard that I used to be able to produce.
“But with these standalone games and these one-off sort of concepts, I think you can pull yourself together for a couple of days and try and get the best out of yourself.”
Brisbane: Gorden Tallis, Lote Tuqiri, Shaun Berrigan, Barry Berrigan, Neville Costigan, Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, Brad Meyers, Kevin Campion, Casey McGuire, Leon Bott, Nathan Friend, Ben Hannant, Brett Seymour, Scott Minto, Wendell Sailor (captain)
Manly: Solomon Haumono, Steven Bell, Craig Hancock, Danny Moore, Scott Donald, Shannon Nevin, Chad Randall, Mark Bryant, Luke Dorn, Travis Burns, Michael Witt, Heath L’Estrange, Jamie Goddard, Cliff Lyons, Steve Menzies (captain)
Newcastle: Kurt Gidley, Robbie O’Davis, Clint Newton, Adam Woolnough, Scott Dureau, Daniel Abraham, Todd Lowrie, Craig Smith, Matt Hilder, Russell Richardson, Ben Cross, Brad Tighe, Jeremy Smith, Owen Craigie, Danny Buderus (captain)
Parramatta: Nathan Hindmarsh, Michael Buettner, Dean Widders, Ian Hindmarsh, Tim Smith, Joel Reddy, Mark Tookey, Matthew Keating, Dennis Moran, Luke O’Dwyer, Brad Dew, Wade McKinnon, PJ Marsh, Brett Finch, Luke Burt (captain)
Canterbury: Willie Mason, Reni Maitua, Mark O’Meley, Brent Sherwin, Daniel Holdsworth, Willie Talau, Tony Grimaldi, Steve Turner, Dene Halatau, Chris Armit, Matt Utai, Brad Morrin, Brett Kimmorley, Rod Silva, Andrew Ryan (captain)
Barbarians: Craig Wing, Michael Crocker, Scott Hill, Craig Gower, Tim Brasher, Amos Roberts, Michael Weyman, John Skandalis, Michael Henderson, Brett Kearney, Paul Whatuira, Joe Galuvao, Matt Geyer, Chris Walker, Matt King (captain)