I was in year 2 when I chose my first ever favourite player. The year was 2007, we had just lost the grand final to the Melbourne Storm, and the legendary Steve Menzies was heading into his last season at the Sea Eagles. Most other kids my age idolised Brett Stewart, and whilst 'Snake' was definitely up there as one of my favourites, I took an eager liking to Jamie Lyon. I can't remember exactly what led me to choose him as my favourite, but looking back now it is one of the best decisions an eight-year-old could make.
Seasons went by, premierships were won, and Jamie Lyon had implemented himself as one of the best to have ever played the game. Now, I am almost at the end of year 11 and a couple of months off turning seventeen, but only days out from Jamie Lyon's farewell to Brookvale Oval and the Manly faithful.
He's my lock screen, I have memorabilia of his plastered around my room, and even bought an auctioned jersey of his with all my accumulated birthday and pocket money as a twelve-year-old. The day he announced his retirement was a Wednesday, which is the day I finish school at midday. Mum picked me up and we were headed to Subway for lunch. The car trip there was silent because any time I tried to speak I knew I'd shed a few more tears. As you can most definitely tell, my heart completely shattered that day.
Last season whilst writing for the Manly Daily I was lucky enough to do a piece on Jamie Lyon and a young girl who had won a competition to meet him. This of course meant that I was able to meet him too, and I was in absolute awe. Whilst being lucky enough to have met the other boys that make up the Sea Eagles, Jamie Lyon was one player who made me beyond star-struck, so this was one of the first times I had properly had a conversation with him.
This week has been a Jamie Lyon-athon on the media side of things, and I know Saturday will be nothing less. Personally, seeing players I loathe congratulating my favourite on his career almost makes me forget my dislike for them - that is until the video stops and the feeling returns. But planning has gone into full steam about whereabouts I should stand for the lap of honour, and how many Jamie Lyon masks I can manage to get a hold of.
It is so surreal that our courageous captain is retiring, and I'm sure all Manly fans can relate to that feeling. But having never had a player who I admire as much as I adore Jamie Lyon, it's almost unbelievable.
Dally M Centre of the Year in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. Dally M Captain of the Year in 2012 and 2014. Rugby League International Federation Centre of the Year in 2011 and 2013. New South Wales Country in 2003 and 2009. New South Wales Blues in 2002, 2003, 2007, 2009 and 2010. Australian Kangaroos in 2001, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2010. Two premierships, one World Club Challenge. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles captain for seven years, from 2010 to 2016. This guy has done virtually everything the game has had to offer, but that's not the only aspect of Jamie Lyon's career that has given him the title of a 'legend'.
Jamie Lyon is one of the most incredibly modest athletes to have ever played rugby league. Coming from humble beginnings in North-Western New South Wales, he never forgot where he came from. He upholds values of family at such a high level that he gave up representative football so that he could spend every second possible with his young family. Lyon's self-effacing nature even played a role in announcing his retirement, where instead of making a big scene out of it all, journalists asked one media session when he planned to retire, to which he replied this season. He is a player who will always make time for fans and is an incredible role model to budding rugby league players.
So, after seventeen years of playing professional rugby league, both in Australia and over in the United Kingdom, Jamie Lyon is hanging up the boots. Whilst it is not looking favourable that he will get the send off he deserves, I know Manly fans will give him the best reception possible.
The accolades that are attached are well-deserved, but it is the way Jamie Lyon holds himself off the field that he has truly earned the title of one of the games' best.
Thank you for everything Killer, you will be dearly missed in the maroon and white, but all us Manly fans hope to see you back around the club very soon.
You, are a true legend.
This article originally appeared on my blog http://takethe2.blogspot.com.au/2016/08/why-i-love-jamie-lyon.html?m=1