Roos awestruck by rare pair
By Dan Koch and Brent Read
May 4, 2006
NOT many halves have been able to distract Petero Civoniceva, but the in-form Test prop concedes the sight of Darren Lockyer and Andrew Johns together on the training track stopped him dead.
"I was just awestruck," Civoniceva said.
"The forwards had just finished their work and we were walking over and Joey and Locky were there throwing these 20m cut-out passes left and right, changing angles, hitting different runners I hadn't even seen. I haven't seen anything like that on a training paddock.
"It's pretty special having those two guys fit and firing in the same team. In my mind they are pretty clearly the two best players of this generation."
It has been a rare sight in recent years to see the two champions working side-by-side at 100 percent.
Since Lockyer's switch from fullback to five-eighth, the pair have played just two Tests together. Both were in last year's Tri-Nations. The partnership was billed as the finest in the game's history but fizzled as Johns struggled with a knee injury.
While some have questioned whether the game's two most influential playmakers can gel with a meagre five-day build-up, Civoniceva was in no doubt what fans should expect.
"Just watching those two work at training and having seen, up close, what they can do on the field, I know they are capable of absolutely anything come Friday," he said.
"I guess it is up to the forwards to give them a base to work from but the thing about those two is they only need a sniff and they look after the rest.
"I know I would rather be on their side than be against them and be trying to figure a way to stop them both."
Coach Ricky Stuart and forward Willie Mason were equally effusive.
Stuart, a former halfback, worked with Johns at State of Origin level but this week has been the first time he has been involved with Lockyer.
The pair had rarely spoken before a recent meeting in Sydney, where they discussed Lockyer's role in tomorrow night's Test at Suncorp Stadium.
"I'm just really enjoying working with the both of them," Stuart said.
"They're just at an elite level. I really enjoy working with them, just the experience and what they do with the football."
Like Civoniceva, Mason was taken aback by what he saw at training.
"They were throwing the long balls and hitting blokes on the chest," Mason said.
"I was just in awe."
After arriving in Brisbane with the rest of the squad, a relaxed-looking Johns described working with Lockyer as a dream.
"It's great being on Locky's side for a change and not be trying to figure a way to shut him down," Johns said. "We have trained really well together so far. He just always seems to be in the right spot at the right time.
"We have talked a lot about how we are going to run things on Friday and I am just really looking forward to getting out there and, hopefully, putting it all together."
The halfback dismissed the suggestion that the short preparation would reduce the game to a forward slog, saying the two sides were loaded with attacking players.
"You only have to look at the backlines and backrows in each team to realise it will be a pretty fast and attacking game," Johns said. "The conditions up here at the moment are conducive to attacking football and with the talent in both teams, I think the crowd will see a pretty entertaining match."
However, Johns wasn't sure what sort of reception he would receive from the Queensland crowd in what will be his final appearance for Australia.
The Newcastle and NSW talisman has been Queensland's enemy number one in State of Origin football.
"I'm not really sure what to expect," he said. "They normally boo me. They are pretty passionate up here. The grandmas are normally out giving me the finger, so it will be interesting."