Written by Stuart McLennan
The Wests Tigers and Chris Lawrence have decisions to make at the end of this season. Put simply, while ‘Rowdy’ is still ‘doing the job’ for the Tigers, he is not the same player he used to be. Why would he be? At almost 32 he has endured more than one horror injury that would have made most men hang up the boots.
It seems less than 14 years ago that the 17 year old schoolboy from Eagle Vale in South West Sydney raced up the sideline at Suncorp to score on debut and help the Wests Tigers to an upset victory over the Brisbane Broncos.
It was his turn of speed and ability to hit a hole that saw the likeable centre carve out a representative career including playing six matches for Australia in 2010-2011.
However the 2011 season didn’t fare well for Lawrence after he suffered a cruel blow, dislocating his hip and spending more than three months recovering on the sideline.
Following the hip injury Rowdy needed to reinvent himself or risk forced retirement. He transformed into a quality backrower operating on the left edge.
However more bad luck with a serious facial injury was to hit the loyal club man later in his career.
In 2019 at thirty years of age he suffered 11 fractures (the result of a pre-season training accident) that dramatically changed the look of his face.
Having suffered a potentially career ending injury previously, Rowdy would have been more than entitled to call time on a distinguished career. All Wests Tigers fans would have understood his decision and wished him good luck for the future.
This weekend Lawrence will rack up 250 NRL games when he steps out onto McDonald Jones Stadium in search of a victory over the Newcastle Knights for his beloved Tigers.
Two 250 game legends. 🐯 Congratulations Chris and Benji pic.twitter.com/lL8A045UvZ
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) August 6, 2020
Fellow veteran player Benji Marshall will also play his 250th first grade game in Newcastle. The Kiwi international was glowing in his praise of Lawrence as a player and a teammate this week.
“Chris Lawrence epitomises the heart and soul of the Wests Tigers. When I talk about toughness and resilience, Chris sums that up for me.
“He is the toughest player I’ve played with and probably the person I’ve seen come back from the most difficult time to still have a presence in the NRL.”
Coincidentally Marshall and Lawrence are joint leaders in the Wests Tigers leading try scorers list with 84 each.
The teammates are equal second for most number of games for the joint venture club behind Robbie Farah who accumulated 277 games for the black, orange and whites. .
If Rowdy doesn’t continue playing beyond 2020 it won’t be due to a lack of courage, passion and a commitment to the only senior club he has ever known after coming up through the junior representative ranks at Western Suburbs.