Written by Joshua Dean
About a decade ago Kevin Locke emerged on the NRL scene as a superstar fullback and became a fan favourite at the New Zealand Warriors.
To this day, people still remember that match-winning try against the Roosters in 2010, where he literally put his body on the line to dive and score, colliding with multiple players and the goalpost. It was a scary injury, but he came back from that and played a major role in the 2011 Warriors team who made the grand final, as well as being the starting fullback for the 2013 Kiwis Rugby League World Cup team.
Many believed he would be the Warriors greatest ever fullback, however in late 2013, the Warriors signed English sensation Sam Tomkins from Wigan after paying a world record transfer fee. This obviously put Locke’s spot in the team under threat and many believe this was the moment that changed both his and the Warriors futures forever.
After the signing of Tomkins, Locke was surplus to requirements and went on to only play 19 games in two seasons in the English Super League, for Salford and Wakefield. He then played lower grade Rugby League in Australia and New Zealand, getting early releases from many teams. As well as his demise on the field, off field issues started to creep in and he kept getting into trouble with the law. If he had never been forced out of the Warriors club tho, his career very well may have turned out differently.
A lot of New Zealand fans believe that if the Warriors didn’t sign Sam Tomkins, their starting fullback in the 2020 NRL season would still be Kevin Locke. Not to say that there isn’t people that think Locke would have eventually gotten into trouble anyways, it’s just many still think that he would still be the Warriors number one to this day.
His talent and skill was incredible for his size, he would get into positions that others could not. It’s sad to think that the Warriors could still have their elite homegrown talents like Shaun Johnson and Kevin Locke. Both these men were very young in 2011, when they were a big part of a grand final side.
How is it possible that now, in 2020, only 9 years later, that neither are playing for the NZ based club? The answer to this is that the Warriors signed too many marquee players and didn’t value their homegrown talent enough. In an alternate universe, where Tomkins stays in England and Locke remains fullback for the Warriors, do they win a title this decade? Probably not, however you would have think they’d come closer than they have. People underestimate how great Kevin Locke was as a player. His NRL statistics of 26 tries in 88 games do not do him any justice.
The fans have always been excited when they see the ‘Kevin Locke set for comeback’ articles with many still highly optimistic that he can play professional Rugby League at a high level again. However, he is 31 years old and it is possible that it just wasn’t meant be.
Regardless tho, most of those fans still look back on New Zealand signing Sam Tomkins as one of the worst decisions in the history of the Warriors as a club.