Jamie Lyon, who set Knowsley Road alight in the 2005 and 2006 seasons, is set to retire from top flight rugby league, leaving is old team-mate Keiron Cunningham harbouring one massive regret.
“I would have loved him to return to St Helens for one cameo season before hanging up his boots,” said the St Helens head coach yesterday.
Saints plucked the iconic 34-year-old Australian centre from the backwaters of the sport after he had become disillusioned with NRL club Parramatta Eels early in his professional career and were totally responsible for rekindling his enthusiasm for the 13-a-side code at the highest level.
Rejuvenated by his two-year spell in this country, he returned home to join Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles where he helped the club win the NRL Grand Final twice, captained the club and also earned international honours as well as representing New South in the State of Origin Series.
None of this surprises Cunningham who played alongside Lyon when Saints completed the double in 2006 - crushing Huddersfield Giants 42-12 in the Challenge Cup Final at Twickenham and then going on to overwhelm Hull FC 26-4 in the Old Trafford Grand Final.
The Saints’ boss said: “Jamie just did things on a rugby field which I’d never seen before and along with fellow Aussie Matt Gidley I rate him as the best centre I’ve ever played with at this club.
“He competed hard during his time here and the way he integrated with everyone was phenomenal, but when he first arrived as something of an unknown quantity he looked a little out of shape having spent time playing Bush rugby and working in a pub.”
But it didn’t take him long to make an impact in his new surroundings and reflected in the fact that at the end of his first season at Knowsley Road he lifted the Man of Steel accolade - the top individual award in British Rugby League and was named twice in the RL Dream Team.
“He will be a big loss to the game Down Under and the sport in general,” said Cunningham.