Nathan Lyon - The Dragon Killer from Young

Nathan Lyon - The Dragon Killer from Young | Acrux Sports

"The Dragon-Killer". That is how Nathan Lyon had signed off at some point in his youth during the late 1990s on the notice board at the Young Hotel. It was only discovered however by pub owners Garry and Marie Cummins when they took it out while renovating their establishment last year. It's from the time he and his brother Brendan had teamed up while representing Young Hotel against the Services Club Dragons team, which was made up of men many years older than the Lyon siblings. It was at that point his highest point as a cricketer. It was the moment when a scrawny and shy youngster with a cheeky sense of humour broke out of his elder sibling's shadow for the first time.

On Saturday (December 11) morning at the Gabba, the 34-year-old off-spinner ended up slaying another dragon. This one in some ways was of his own making, This was one that hadn't tormented him but had certainly held him at bay for longer than he'd have imagined. And it'd only seemed to become more monumental in nature because there was never any threat that he wouldn't overcome it.

So, when Lyon did have Dawid Malan inside-edging on to his pad to Marnus Labuschagne at silly-point, there was more excitement than relief around the Gabba and within the Australian team. For the 400th Test wicket, as significant as a milestone as it is, was never looked at as a summit for and by Lyon. It was just the latest statistical dragon that he'd laid to rest, with many more to come and be 'killed' in the next few years.

Lyon's journey from being a country boy turned Adelaide groundsman to becoming the third most successful bowler in Australian Test history is well-documented. But those in Young believe that his roots still stay very entrenched in the place that made him. That despite being the most significant import from the little regional town apart from 'cherries', Lyon continues to give more than he's ever taken.

A short visit to Young late last year was quite the glimpse into the makings of Lyon and more importantly the largely self-made nature of the Lyon story. For the Cummins, and other locals you bump into at the Young Hotel, Lyon remains the humble kid of humble parents who's never lost his humility, despite all the success and adulation that's come his way. The only sign of his celebrity status in the country that the Cummins have ever noticed back there, and it's an endearing one, is when Lyon brought his mother a rather 'fancy car" a couple of years ago.

"You see him around the few times he does visit during the year. But he's just the same Nathan, always polite, always keen on knowing how you're doing but always very supportive of everything that's sport-related in Young, and especially if it has to do with kids. He contributes a lot still and is one of those who'll never forget his roots," Marie had said, while tending to the busy evening crowd filling up the pub.

"We were known for a few famous rugby league players and a couple who moved from the neighbouring towns to setup base here," Garry had chimed in while going back and forth over the origins of a few NRL legends with one of his customers. There's however a consensus then over the fact that Lyon has done more to put Young on the global map than perhaps anyone to emerge from these parts.

You're soon whisked away to be shown some country-style hospitality, off to a cherry orchard run by the Cummins' son in the outskirts of town. He's one of the few from the current generation who've chosen to stay back in Young to pursue their futures. Like Brendan Lyon tells Cricbuzz,"A lot of kids finish there and unless they're on the farm, they leave and either move to the cities or the coast."

It was his own move to Canberra to attend university that would eventually trigger his younger brother's first significant step towards what would become a potentially hall of fame career. There had been a lot of cricket in the Lyon family. From grandfathers on both sides having played the sport at some level while the grandmothers kept score. The first time the junior Lyon got noticed for his cricket, Brendan reveals, was at a training camp not too far from home. Former leg-spinner turned commentator Kerry O'Keeffe was one of the coaches at the camp.

"He caught Kerry's eye. It was quite cool for both of us and Kerry and we've been in touch ever since. We were coached in Young by the great Warren Smith who had had the likes of Michael Slater under his wings. His first notable cricket achievement funnily came with the bat, when he created a Bowral Carnival record. He got 2 hundreds in 2 days and he was 14 then," Brendan adds.

The move to Canberra of course resulted in Lyon securing his first job as a groundsman at the Manuka Oval followed by the move to Adelaide and the meeting with Darren Berry that changed his life forever. There wasn't much about his brother's early days as a cricketer though that would have convinced Brendan, who runs coaching clinics around the country, that he would end up playing over 100 Tests and taking over 400 Test wickets.

"He was a freakish sportsman. Even now you can see it in some of his caught and bowleds or some of the things he does with the bat. His personality has more or less remained the same. Pretty cheeky. Likes a laugh. He's pretty dry as you see now. He's always keen on keeping people entertained," he says.

While he acknowledges that his brother is now counted as one of Young's "favourite and most famous" sons, he's also adamant that his parents' lives haven't changed much at all. It's something that the Cummins agree with too.

"My mom and dad are humble people from the country. Dad was out working on the farm when he debuted in Sri Lanka. It was exciting but not expected no. We don't get to visit them together too often. But they've stayed the same regardless of how much Nathan's life has changed," Brendan adds.

There's a softer side to Lyon's personality that both his brother and the locals like to talk about, especially since they believe it doesn't get as noticed as they believe it should. It comes through quite regularly on the field too, even if it's not always on camera. Like on the fourth morning of the Gabba Test. Twenty minutes before Lyon became only the third Australian bowler to go past 400 Test wickets, he was busy having a chat with the kid holding the Australian flag up near the dressing-room, even as his teammates got into a loose huddle before entering the field. For Marie Cummins, it came through a chance meeting on a travel group with someone who was very privy to that part of Nathan Lyon's make-up.

"We were on a trip somewhere and Sean Abbott's grandmother was part of the group. When she realised I was from Young, she began telling me about how supportive Nathan had been for her grandson following the unfortunate passing of Phil Hughes. That Nathan had taken the young kid completely under his wings and Sean might not have stayed in cricket if not for him," she says.

Apart from its rather sleepy pace and the closeness of community that's apparent in Young, you also realised that they don't get too excited about much in that part of the world. But the hard-working folk of this hard-working town who make themselves at home with the Cummins at Young Hotel every evening would have raised a toast for their hard-working hero on Saturday evening. It would have been an ode to their Dragon Killer and his latest conquest.