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Laidback Locky has a subtle side to back-row game

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As laidback Aussies go, Lachlan McCaffrey fits all the stereotypes. Except when he hits the field.

See Locky off the pitch and he’s likely to be in shorts and flip-flops, the Aussie uniform of choice, with an unfussy and informal attitude to match. Like Welford Road favourites Pat Howard and Julian Salvi in recent memory, he could be so laidback that horizontal would not be an exaggeration.
On the field, however, is completely different.
With Brendon O’Connor, Opeti Fonua and Mike Williams counted out by injury for periods, and Jordan Crane pushed down the pecking order after a decade of service, McCaffrey been a consistent and valuable commodity in the back row and justified his place among the nominations for the supporters’ player of the season.
All this from a guy, remember, who was at London Welsh last season, living through a whole campaign when he did not experience a single winning feeling. Welsh were beaten in every league game, in the cup and in the European Challenge Cup. Welcome to England Locky.
Something about him, though, ticked the boxes for Richard Cockerill and he became a Leicester Tigers signing last summer. Unheralded doesn’t begin to cover his reception with few in the Tigers Family aware of his work in the losing cause for Welsh or who monitored his progress back in Oz when other big names caught the attention.
When you’re neither a speedster nor a monster, you have to back your footballing skills and a decent rugby brain to compensate and McCaffrey has provided both as a back-row warrior and the linkman in a new-look Tigers team.
He is not a massive ball-carrier in the sense of flying into opposition defences. Instead, his skills are more subtle. He receives ball like a midfielder and manipulates it, taking on defences, sensing gaps and looking to bring colleagues into play.
Neither is he going to smash men off the ball in defence for 80 minutes, but he does not shirk at the breakdown and has that sense of knowing when to compete on the floor. His turnovers and penalty gains all over the field have been a feature of his debut season as a Tiger and the final body up off the floor has often been the Aussie No8.
It might have something to do with his natural environment as one of 10 boys in a family of 11 siblings, but when the bullets are flying, McCaffrey has a calm head too.
Like Mike Fitzgerald, Peter Betham and Telusa Veainu, McCaffrey has played his way firmly into the favours of the Tigers faithful in his first season and a natural humility has also gained him many new friends in the East Midlands. He will return for the new season with the added benefit of experiencing semi-finals in both the Aviva Premiership and the Champions Cup, and that can be no bad thing either. See you next season!