At 46, Cliff hangs up his footy boots Jason Avedissian 31Mar07 The league legend is pictured with his children. Front: Matthew and Shane; and at back, Courtney and Gabrielle. CLIFF Lyons was never the first footballer picked when selectors sat down to name NSW and Australian teams. In fact, many times the crafty Manly five-eighth had to play above and beyond his rivals just to get a spot on the bench, with the likes of Terry Lamb, Kevin Walters and Brad Fittler preferred above him. They were fair names and could obviously play, but Lyons was not half bad. At Brookvale Oval, the mustachioed one was king in an incredible career spanning 14 seasons and 309 matches. ``He was an absolute genius at putting people through holes,'' former Manly boss Ken Arthurson said this week after Lyons announced his retirement from the Manly-Warringah A Grade competition at the age of 46. ``I have never seen any footballer with the same timing and as good with the ball in hand as Cliff Lyons.'' Arko's not delirious in retirement on the Gold Coast, Lyons truly was one of a kind. Former teammate Des Hasler recalled: ``One of those natural players that had plenty of time with the ball in hand. ``He was a great player who loved the game.'' Craved it so much he just kept on playing. Born at Narrandera, in the heart of the Riverina, a teenage Lyons arrived at Cronulla as a second-rower in 1981. His stint there didn't last, moving to the Murrumbidgee River where he played for the Gundagai Tigers for the next three years. It was by this stage Lyons was really starting to develop, representing the Riverina against New Zealand and Great Britain, before following his coach Greg Hawick to North Sydney in 1985. The following season he arrived at Brookvale, quickly becoming a favourite. Grand final victories, Test match success, tough Origin battles and success in the A Grade followed in the ensuing 19 years as Lyons's longevity in the game was marvelled. ``He made sure he never got tackled, he was too smart for them,'' Hasler said of Lyons playing into his 40s and beyond. But sadly, it's all come to end with Narraweena starting their 2007 A Grade campaign tomorrow without Lyons standing at five-eighth. ``I always knew the day was going to come,'' Lyons said. ``I'm getting a bit long in the tooth. ``I'll coach Narraweena's seconds three days week, it will keep me out of trouble.'' He said he would also play for the Manly-Warringah representative touch team in the Sydney Championships. No doubt, scheming, plotting and driving the opposition crazy. ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~ ~~~~~~~ Cliffy Lyons by Rick O'Hare There was a man called "Cliffy"! He had hands as smooth as silk, A little champion footballer, There was no one of his ilk! Some people took him seriously, To Cliffy it was just fun, They would All get frustrated, Didn't know where he would run, To Cliffy rugby league was always just a game, But when he played for Manly, He put the rest to shame. Cliffy was a master, When he ran on football grass, A game breaker, a wizard, Napper was all class. When Manly were in trouble it didn't really matter, Because Manly could always score that winning try, Set up by the master napper! Cliffy was the master, Like I've never seen before, He was the wind beneath the wings, That made the EAGLE'S SOAR!!