A mature head on young shoulders - time to put Lawrence in Origin, says Sheens
April 15, 2010
AT SCHOOL Chris Lawrence wore a jersey of sky blue and maroon but this year he wants one of just the blue. ‘‘That’s one of my main goals, to play rep footy,’’ Lawrence said yesterday, when asked about the prospect of a NSW jersey.
His Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens is convinced Lawrence is ready, and that the sky blue’s not even the limit. ‘‘I’ve coached at every level and he can play at any level,’’ Sheens said. ‘‘I don’t think he’d be out of place in any representative team. He was unlucky not to play last year.’’
A foot injury kept him out of all Origin football last year. He appeared destined to make the City side, but was ruled out at the worst possible time.
But Sheens believes the left-sided Lawrence would look at home in the City side this year, paired with Michael Jennings on the right. And then NSW would beckon.
‘‘I think NSW, with those two blokes [Lawrence and Jennings] and the Morris boys, just to start with, they’re well off out wide,’’ Sheens said.
Timing may in fact work for him this year. Tomorrow’s clash with Canterbury will pit Lawrence indirectly against Josh Morris, a fellow left-sided centre who appears to be his biggest obstacle when it comes to Blues selection. Directly, though, he will be up against Jamal Idris, who is part of a defensive combination that is vulnerable. A good performance on such a stage and in such company would give Lawrence a huge boost. ‘‘It’s up to me,’’ Lawrence said. ‘‘I’ve just got to make sure I’m playing better than the other centres. If I’m doing that, hopefully I’ll get a crack.’’
Lawrence was back at his old school, Campbelltown’s St Gregory’s College, yesterday as part of a coaching clinic named the Chris Lawrence Academy. It indicated how far he had come as a first-grader - establishing an academy in your name at age 21 is an achievement. But the player said he had a long way to go on the field.
‘‘I’d still like to improve my game,’’ Lawrence said. ‘‘There’s always things to improve on. I’m not happy with where I’m at. I want to be at a certain level and I’m working hard to get there.’’ Talk to Sheens, though, and it is clear Lawrence has already come a long way. He points to the tries scored outside him - 15 from winger Taniela Tuiaki last season - he scored 21 tries all-up - and five already from his 2010 partner Lote Tuqiri.
‘‘I’m Chris’s biggest fan,’’ Sheens said. ‘‘Not only does he score tries, but wingers outside him score tries as well - not every centre passes. I think he’s one of the best centres playing the game.’’
Having scored four tries himself so far this year, to add to those he has helped create, Lawrence has become a key member of a Tigers squad which, like the centre, is young and talented yet can improve. Intensity and attitude are the keys, according to Lawrence. ‘‘It’s a good sign that we’ve been winning, but I still don’t think we’ve been playing that good footy,’’ Lawrence said. ‘‘We’ve got a long way to go before we match it with the top teams.’’