Family feud for the Lussick brothers

Brothers Darcy and Joey Lussick will be on opposite sides in Super League next season, one for Toronto and one for Salford, and they can’t wait to get stuck into each other!

When the Salford Red Devils and Toronto Wolfpack squared off in the 2018 Super 8s, it was a special occasion for the Lussick family. With Joey Lussick playing for Salford, and brother Darcy for Toronto (and their father Jason in the stands), it was the first time that the two had played against each other… sort of.

“It was massive,” said Darcy, the older of the two brothers who has recently beaten former Brisbane Broncos star Justin Hodges in a boxing bout. “We actually weren’t on the field at the same time, I got subbed off when he came on, and vice-versa, so we actually didn’t play against each other.”

In Joey’s NRL debut for their hometown club, Manly Sea Eagles, in 2017, he played alongside his brother, so coming up against Darcy was a special moment, especially as their dad is also a former Sea Eagle.

“I was fortunate enough to debut with him by my side,” said the 23-year-old hooker. “It was definitely a funny experience to play against him.”

After the Wolfpack beat Featherstone Rovers in October’s Million Pound Game, they’ll be in Super League for the first time, and the two are looking forward to getting more chances to line up against each other, which they’ll get to do three times in 2020.

The two teams will be approaching the season from very different perspectives.

Salford’s 2019 season was one to remember, as the Red Devils defied expectations and made it all the way to the Grand Final at Old Trafford, and on a personal level, Joey had a good season, racking up over 1,000 tackles and picking up 13 tries.

“It was a successful season for myself, and for the club,” said Joey. “We had high expectations within the playing group and coaching staff, and we’d got off to a pretty decent start, but we started to fall away.

“We didn’t panic but we weren’t happy with ourselves. We knew once we got back on our feet we’d start to get a few wins, and we went on the run that we did. We were winning every week and we sort of got a momentum and no one could really stop us.

“Making the final was unbelievable, we were disappointed not to win it, but St Helens were a class side, as they’ve been for many years, and to reach the final was an experience in itself.”

The Red Devils squad has seen a lot of turnover leading into 2020 following the departure of Man of Steel Jackson Hastings, among others, but they’ve also brought a lot of quality into the side, and Joey likes the way things have gone overall.

“We’ve lost a few but also brought in a few,” he started. “We’ve tried to replace and better the people we’ve lost, because you obviously want to try and improve each year. Fingers crossed we can keep everyone healthy like we did last year and see what we can do in the competition.”

Darcy’s Toronto Wolfpack side also had an eventful 2019, dominating the Championship and earning promotion to Super League, redeeming themselves after their defeat in the Million Pound Game a year earlier.

Obviously the 2018 defeat to London was heartbreaking, but as Darcy explains, an extra year in the Championship was beneficial for Toronto.

“At the time when we lost to London, it was pretty devastating, but I don’t know if we would’ve been ready to make a serious play for the Super League the following year,” said the 30-year-old prop. It might’ve been a little too soon for us, but now I’m 100% confident that we’re not just ready to make up the numbers, but to really challenge for something and to be taken as a really serious team.”

The Wolfpack made a number of big signings ahead of the 2019 season, which benefited the team both on and off the pitch, including Head Coach Brian McDermott.

“Brian’s a phenomenal coach, but not only that, he’s a great leader of the players,” started Darcy. He’s a great man-manager, and everyone loves playing for him. I suppose the success on the field translated to success off the field.”

Despite winning 28 of 29 matches in 2019, the Wolfpack’s biggest impact was made off the pitch with the signing of rugby megastar Sonny Bill Williams in November.

“It’s crazy isn’t it? I still can’t believe it,” said Darcy. “He’s been at the top of his game for nearly 15 years or something like that; I remember being in high school and watching him in the NRL when he came in. He was only 17 or 18, and he was a freak.

“All you heard [in the media] was ‘Toronto Wolfpack’ and ‘Super League’, said Joey of the Wolfpack’s new recruit. Toronto Wolfpack have exposed more people to the Super League, which obviously is what the game needs, more media attention. I think Toronto coming up into Super League is a massive bonus for the game.”

Joey and his Red Devils teammates won’t have to wait long to play Darcy, Sonny and the Wolfpack, as the two sides will meet at the AJ Bell Stadium in round 2 of the 2020 season.

Like every sibling rivalry (and sporting rivalry) both sides want to beat each other. The two sides meet three times in 2020, and the Lussicks are well aware of the bragging rights that come along with being victorious.

“As soon as the draw came out, we were at each other with a bit of banter, it’s going to be exciting,” said Darcy. “I won’t speak to him for the week leading up to it, and hopefully we win.”

“We need to win, but I also need to make sure he doesn’t get one over me during the game,” added Joey. “When we’re on the field, it doesn’t matter if we’re brothers, they’re the opponents. He’ll try and kill me which will be good fun and a good laugh after the game.

“It’ll definitely be an experience we’ll remember forever,” he continued. “He’ll be targeting me, and he’ll be telling the whole team to target me”

No matter who wins, one thing is for certain: the Lussick family’s Rugby League story will be adding another chapter in 2020.

First published in Rugby League World, Issue 465 (Jan 2020)