Lyndon Dykes: QPR's rugby league talent turned Scotland football hero

By Matt NewsumBBC Sport
Lyndon Dykes
Lyndon Dykes has had a immediate impact at international level, scoring twice in seven Scotland games

When, as anticipated, Lyndon Dykes belts out 'Flower of Scotland' as a Scotland footballer at this summer's rescheduled European Championships it will be a moment of pride for him and his family.

The capping of a remarkable rise from playing for fun in Australia, through a spell in Scottish football, on to the Championship with Queens Park Rangers and now featuring at a major international tournament.

Yet, it might have all been so different.

The sporty kid from Gold Coast was not always on this career trajectory.

He might instead have found himself lining up for Scotland in a different blue jersey at this autumn's Rugby League World Cup in England, having been a promising schoolboy player in his youth.

"You never know what might have happened had I stuck with rugby league," Dykes told the BBC Radio 5 Live Rugby League podcast.

"I would probably have been a bit bigger for starters, and had a broken nose here and there. But I loved it, I still love it, grew up playing it and enjoyed every moment."

Footy - in the Australian sense of the word

Ruben Wiki
Ruben Wiki, a dynamite Kiwi centre-turned-prop at Canberra, was Dykes' early rugby league hero

Despite being born in Queensland's coastal city of Gold Coast, it was in Canberra where the Dykes family settled during his formative years - and Lyndon, like his Australia gymnast sister, was always involved in sport.

Despite dabbling in basketball, rugby union, Aussie rules and football, it was the 13-a-side code that he really took to.

"We always got a season pass to the Canberra Raiders - Ruben Wiki was the captain and my idol at that time - so I used to go to every game. My dad took me," continued the 25-year-old.

"I didn't really watch the games because I was out the front playing rugby with all the little kids.

"I was all right, I had a good little step on me and did all the kicking. I enjoyed everything about it, it came naturally, and I was the type of player who, despite playing full-back, always wanted to be on the ball.

"I liked doing little 'chip and chases' and little grubbers and just those kind of things. It was really fun."

Switching to the round ball

Dykes' enthusiasm was matched by talent, eventually attracting the interest of the Raiders after helping Gungahlin Bulls to a cup final win on the Raiders' hallowed turf - one of his favourite memories.

The Raiders move never came about, as a worrying injury gave him a scare and the family moved back to Gold Coast. With it, rugby league would be replaced in his affections by the round-ball game.

"My uncle [Stuart Stevenson Johnston], who actually played in Scotland and South Africa, signed me up to a team without me knowing and I stuck with football and didn't go back to rugby league," he said.

It would take two special rugby league players to change Dykes' allegiance in the sport once he moved back home north of the Tweed River.

Livewire Matty Bowen and key playmaker Johnathan Thurston were two megastars of rugby league in the mid-2000s, representing their country and state at the highest level.

"When Bowen and Thurston came to the North Queensland Cowboys, I know it's something you're not supposed to do, but I switched to the Cowboys," he sheepishly laughed.

"Because of the fact I played full-back at the time and Bowen was my favourite because he played in the same position, and then JT came and we knew how good he was so, yes, I'm a Cowboys supporter."

Matty Bowen and Johnathan Thurston
Matty Bowen and Johnathan Thurston prompted Dykes to switch allegiance from Canberra to the Cowboys on his move back to Queensland with his mum

Fairytale rise

Dykes' move into professional football was nothing like many of his club or country team-mates as he was rejected by A-League sides such as Brisbane Roar back in Australia.

He swapped working in a factory for a trial at Scottish Championship side Queen of the South, encouraged by family living in Scotland, and the ascent was swift.

Having made his debut for the Doonhamers in the summer of 2016, just 136 games and 23 goals later he was playing in the Scottish Premiership with Livingston, having moved from winger to centre-forward.

The 2019-20 season proved to be a breakthrough year for Dykes, who scored 12 goals in 33 games for Livi before starting this campaign with two more goals in three games to earn the move to England with QPR and make his international bow for Scotland.

"I was a bit of a late bloomer, but it's the best thing I've ever done and I'm really enjoying it," he said.

Proud family awaits 'special' opportunity

Lyndon Dykes gets guidance from Scotland boss Steve Clarke
Steve Clarke brought Lyndon Dykes into the Scotland squad on the back of his club form

With rugby league's loss proving football's gain, Dykes' focus is strictly on ensuring his form will be good enough to keep him in Steve Clarke's Scotland squad for the European Championships, which start on 11 June.

He still keeps an eye out for rugby league, especially at State of Origin time when he can swap Queensland-New South Wales banter with QPR physio Aaron Harris.

But, for now, all the attention is on fulfilling his international ambitions and ensuring Rangers' progress in England's second tier by building on their recent run of six wins in their past nine games, which has eased any relegation worries.

"It will be special, it's been a long time for Scotland as a nation [to be at a major tournament]," he continued.

"I'll be really stoked. Hopefully I'm involved there and can do my best so my family will be proud.

"My son and my wife will be watching and it'll be a proud moment for me. It's something I want to do and to be an international player for a long time."

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