Truth about Darius Boyd’s fall from grace
Darius Boyd has been the whipping boy in Brisbane for the past couple of seasons.
Last year critics accused him of being scared of contact as he missed - or at times outright avoided - crucial tackles, and it's been downhill on a personal and team front in 2020.
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A loss against the Cowboys tonight will see the Broncos officially become the worst side in club history by "winning" the wooden spoon for the first time and Boyd has been targeted as one of many failing to pull their weight.
Played out of position at left centre by axed coach Anthony Seibold, Boyd's poor defensive reads became all too common and the veteran was hammered again even after regaining his No. 1 jersey when he was left stranded by forward Nat Butcher during a 58-12 loss to the Roosters in Round 16.
But the recent on-field difficulties he's faced only tell a minute part of the Darius Boyd story.
After announcing earlier in the year this season would be his last, the 33-year-old will play his final NRL game against North Queensland - and his career makes for remarkable reading.
Seventeen tries in 28 Origins for Queensland, 337 first grade games and 23 Tests for Australia - all victories, making him the most-capped Kangaroo in a 112-year history to never taste defeat in the green and gold - are the real talking points of Boyd's journey.
An automatic selection in the Maroons' and Kangaroos' star-studded backlines, the fullback/winger was always one of the most reliable players on the field during his decade-long representative career.
Not as monstrous as Greg Inglis or as mesmerising as Billy Slater, Boyd always found a way to cross the stripe at one end and protect it with his life at the other.
Beyond his work on the football field, Boyd's transformation from surly young man with a chip on his shoulder to one of rugby league's most respected leaders is the achievement that deserves to be celebrated most as he enters retirement.
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Who could forget when, having followed father figure Wayne Bennett from Brisbane to St George, Boyd produced one of rugby league's most iconic press conferences, delivering monosyllabic answers with disdain as he faced reporters for a whole 42 seconds.
Thanks to YouTube, that performance will never die.
Here was an angry man determined to push people away. Boyd followed Bennett to Newcastle before coming home to Brisbane in 2015 but hit rock bottom, prompting Boyd's partner Kayla to leave him.
It was the kick up the backside he needed.
"It was my wife (Kayla), she said she'd had enough, she said it wasn't something that she wanted to stick around for and be a part of in that relationship," Boyd told Triple M in 2017.
"It wasn't enjoyable for her, and even myself, I wasn't happy. I was angry, I wasn't sure what was wrong or why I was feeling the way I was feeling or why I was acting the way I was acting.
"Something needed to change. Her leaving was the last straw that I really needed to change something and do something."
So change he did. Boyd sought psychiatric treatment and made it through the other side. In 2017 he was named Broncos captain - recognition of how far he'd come since that infamous interview in the Red V.
Even when Seibold took the captaincy off Boyd this season, he remained a leader. It's why legends like Paul Gallen begged for Brisbane to reinstate him at fullback so he could provide direction as the most experienced player at Red Hill.
The try-saving tackles, scything runs through the middle and dashes down the sideline that were synonymous with Boyd in his pomp have been sadly absent as the Broncos crashed and burned this season.
But one or two ordinary campaigns can't - and won't - take the shine off a career that will end with Boyd as the ninth-most capped player in NRL history.
Often athletes struggle in retirement with a loss of identity. But Boyd is more than a footballer.
He's already written a book, Battling The Blues, that tells the eye-opening story of a man who has seen the light after suffering through dark times and he wants to help others do the same, planning to conduct workshops around mental wellbeing at the Broncos when his playing days are over.
Boyd has retired a champion, but his best work may be yet to come.
Originally published as Truth about Darius Boyd's fall from grace