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How the weight of expectations stifled Matt Moylan’s NRL career

There are two issues they used to name Matt Moylan.

The first one was “young Matt Moylan”. Why that occurred so usually and why it caught stays a thriller – Moylan wasn’t a teenage prodigy given he debuted simply shy of his twenty second birthday.

But it did have a endurance to it, whilst Moylan aged via his mid-20s, sufficient in order that even now with Moylan’s time in the NRL coming to an finish after he signed with Super League membership Leigh Leopards, the outdated joke is being wheeled out once more.

The different identify did not final as lengthy however it was much more harmful. There was some time there when Matt Moylan wasn’t simply referred to as younger; he was referred to as “the next Darren Lockyer”. You heard it in commentary, learn it in newspapers, noticed it mentioned on tv panel reveals. It was inescapable and whereas it was meant as a praise, it ended up being a jail. 

Rugby league is rarely shy of making a comparability between a rookie and a legend – simply ask the litany of subsequent Billy Slaters, Cameron Smiths, Sonny Bill Williams or Andrew Johns which have come via the ranks – and all the time, with out fail, they don’t reside as much as it.

Moylan just isn’t with out his abilities. At his peak, he was a gifted attacking participant, and proper to the finish of his NRL career he had an excellent understanding of area and find out how to exploit it for each him and others. He was a pointy executor of attacking form, and earlier than accidents slowed him down, his contact soccer background made him a harmful man off a fast play the ball.

But he was not Darren Lockyer. He by no means might be as a result of no person can. There can solely be one Darren Lockyer and rugby league has already had him. Moylan, via no fault of his personal, was hamstrung by one of rugby league’s best sins – the sport’s use of its previous to think about the future, as if it can’t conceive of one thing that does not exist already.

The early days of Moylan’s career at Penrith had been exhilarating sufficient to grasp why individuals had been able to get carried away. His debut in opposition to Parramatta in 2013 was a 44-12 romp the place his composure and attacking class shone via like a beacon in the night time.

In the subsequent season, he performed an enormous function in the Panthers’ unbelievable run to the preliminary remaining, whereas discovering a present for match-winning performs. He made the Australian squad for the Four Nations and issues had been transferring alongside precisely as they had been imagined to.

But when you find yourself the subsequent Lockyer, there isn’t a time to attend. When you might be the subsequent Lockyer, you must be that proper now and all the time. When you might be the subsequent Lockyer, yours is the world and every little thing in it. It would not matter in the event you can put on the crown that rests so heavy, you are going to should bear it anyway.

That’s how Moylan was appointed captain of the Panthers in 2016 after simply 50 NRL matches and when he was nonetheless discovering himself as a footballer. He was requested to be a frontrunner earlier than he’d been led himself, and the outcomes did not agree with him.

Moylan captured rugby league’s creativeness in his youthful years. (Getty Images: Renee McKay)

That’s how, when his transfer from fullback to five-eighth occurred, it didn’t happen in the fullness of time however on the largest stage of all. The first time Moylan performed a first-grade sport at five-eighth was not for Penrith, however for New South Wales in Origin III that very same season.

That’s how Moylan left the Panthers only one season right into a five-year deal  —as a result of the Darren Lockyer comparisons weren’t simply the common media and fan hype. This time the calls had been coming from inside the home, with then-Panthers coach Anthony Griffin himself making the Lockyer comparability.

Eventually, all of it grew to become an excessive amount of. Moylan, who was made the face of a false-dawn Panthers revolution that solely actually arrived years later, finally left Penrith in bitter circumstances for the Sharks. By this time, the Lockyer comparisons had died down. If you can not fulfill unimaginable expectations, the rugby league discourse won’t hesitate to depart you behind.

Moylan’s years with Cronulla had been a combined bag. His first marketing campaign with the membership in 2018 was one of his greatest seasons in the prime grade, culminating in a sudden-death finals showdown along with his former membership the place Moylan produced one of the hardest performances of his career in a 21-20 victory.



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