Jamie Lyon today wakes to find himself with the most feared tag in NRL Rugby League: “The NRL’s most overrated player.”
Lyon takes the trophy off the thankful Braith Anasta who has consistently won the unwanted label year after year.
It has been some journey for the one time country boy and high flying Parramatta Eel. After bursting onto the scene in 2000 for the Eels, Lyon was suddenly in State of Origin and playing for his country before he even had time to think about what he had achieved.
Originally a bullocking centre who would simply run over the top of opponents with ease, the kid not only had attacking prowess – but could defend with the best of them, pulling anyone from locks to front rowers into the turf with brute strength.
Then in late 2003 something went wrong for Lyon, just want happened has been debated and speculated on by plenty of people. Officially claiming ‘homesickness’ Jamie Lyon went walkabout – leaving his $300,000 multi-year contract and his Eels team mates in limbo. At the time the Eels were struggling badly and team mates were disappointed in Lyon’s choice to walk away.
After thrashing things out with the Eels, Lyon was only contractually able to play in the ‘UK Super League’ and not the NRL. Meaning his close relationship with former Eel turned Manly talent scout Noel Cleal wasn’t able to be rekindled – Lyon would have to wait years to return to the NRL comp.
Lyon joined St Helen’s and went on to bag a tonne of awards and the coveted ‘Man of Steel’ award – the equivalent of the ‘Dally M Medal’ in the NRL. Everything looked perfect for Lyon and with his return to the NRL this year, many (including most Manly fans) thought the sky was the limit for Lyon.
So far Jamie Lyon hasn’t got close to the form he showed the NRL world several years ago. This latest tag of ‘The NRL’s most overrated player’ is simply a risk of signing a massive financial contract and just not producing the goods on the field week in week out.
A lot of NRL punters think that it’s a case of Jamie Lyon playing out of position at Manly and time at pivot will see his game improve. The problem with this theory is that Jamie Lyon played pivot in the UK and knows the position well from his junior days – it’s not a totally new role for him, so theoretically he should be much better already.
Personally, I think the problem for Jamie Lyon is the huge gap that exists between the UK Super League and the NRL competition. In the past decade, plenty of media spin has tried to cover up this fact – especially with the massive player drain from the NRL to the UK Super League, plenty claim that the UK Super League is on par with the NRL. Challenge Cup results continue to dilute the understanding of the public, UK sides have been winning so they must be just as good! Wrong, home ground, off-season and conditions always favour the UK sides – the result is usually a foregone conclusion.
The NRL sees the injection of young, talented superstars in waiting nearly every week. Look at guys like Greg Inglis, Israel Folau, Chris Lawrence, Kris Inu, Luke Walsh, Jarrod Mullen, William Zilman – all new faces and already matching it with the best the NRL has to offer.
While this is good for the NRL, it leaves guys like Jamie Lyon finding it very tough to compete. In his late 20’s Lyon is now an elder statesmen of the NRL and his previous level of skill and fitness in the UK Super League – is sadly a yard or two off the NRL pace.
It leaves him with the tag of ‘Most Overrated Player in the NRL’