10.04.2008 – Graham Croker

When number eight David Lyons came off the bench in the second half against the Auckland Blues in their Super 14 clash at Waratah Stadium on Friday night, he became just the third player to represent NSW on 100 occasions.

Lyons joined halfback Chris Whitaker (118) and fullback Matthew Burke (115) as the only Waratahs since NSW began playing in 1882 to reach the 100-game milestone, which was duly celebrated after the hosts defeated the Blues 37-16.

Fresh from Australian Schoolboy captaincy and a year in Colts at Sydney University, Lyons made his NSW debut as a 19-year-old against the Stormers in Cape Town in 2000. And, as the iron man of the Waratah pack he rattled up a record 83 consecutive games at Super Rugby level before injury ruled him out for most of 2007. His 100 state caps include 93 at Super Rugby level.

Of course, he’s also earned 44 Test caps since making his Wallaby debut against Argentina in 2000. And, he’s been on two World Cup campaigns and collected Shute Shield premierships with Sydney University. Indeed, he represented NSW and Australia before playing first grade for the Students.

Lyons’s achievements are all the more remarkable because successive coaches at NSW and Australian levels used him as a battering ram to get teams over the advantage line. And at 192cm and 117kg, there’s plenty of him to take a battering.

Born at Orange and raised at Molong, Lyons attended Hurlstone Agricultural High School and didn’t take up rugby union until he was 16. He quickly made his mark and 18 months later captained the touring Australian schoolboys of 1997-98.

Having rushed into the 80s, Lyons played his way through the nervous 90s for NSW before a serious ankle injury stranded him on 99 state caps. He was a proud 27-year-old when he brought up the ton on Friday night.

“After the game, I didn’t know what was going on,” Lyons told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It was a very humbling experience. As you could expect, playing 100 matches was something I never expected. I began playing rugby because I loved it, and it came naturally. It all went from there. I just fell into it.”

Perhaps the last word should go the Lyons’s Sydney University team-mate and NSW skipper, Phil Waugh, who has 93 NSW caps: “If you talk about passion and commitment, David’s one of the guys I’ve played with who really stands out. I’ve known him since he was 16, and he hasn’t changed one bit. He’s the salt of the earth, and someone I’ll definitely be mates with in life after rugby.”