17 Apr 2021
The Long Read: Bruno at 300 appearances
Michael Lawrence is proud of his career, and he's got a lot to be proud of - he's made 300 club and career appearances (celebrated within a few games of one another), he's the head of the TackleIt campaign, he's a Jamaica International, bringing his country to their maiden World Cup later this year, and he's been made the club captain for 2021.
"It's a real honour to be made club captain of my hometown club and something I'm really proud of and to make 300 appearances. I’ve always just set out to try to keep the standards high and after each game just trying to roll into another one, keep my consistency. That's the key" said Lawrence.
Consistency is the hallmark of Michael Lawrence's career. Known as Bruno to his teammates, he's always remained popular and according to teammate Leroy Cudjoe, he is a perfect role model for any player trying to make their way in the game.
"His commitment and discipline are two reasons for him having a long career in RL, he’s a great role model for any aspiring young player that what's to be successful in this game. The way he trains, prepares and recovers is top class and when you consistently do that you give yourself the best chance of having a long career" said Cudjoe. His nickname with the rest of the squad, Test match, is a testament to his commitment to not letting his effort drop.
"He trains every day like he’s playing in a World Cup Final and it's a little joke we have but he sets the standard in training and that's why he’s a perfect role model for any young player. He competes to win on everything!"
While Bruno has finally made the transition to the front row, receiving the Number 10 jersey for 2021 and starting as a front-rower, he made his debut as a centre/winger. Despite this, Cudjoe insists that to those that have followed his career, it's not a surprise.
"Early on in his career, you could see how he would naturally grow into becoming a forward, more a back row than a prop forward. His work rate off the ball and his Defence has always been something he prides himself on and with his size added to that into was a natural progression for him and over time from the back row to prop."
The hallmarks of Lawrence have always been his work rate and his defence, but often during his career, Cudjoe maintains, the 30-year-old's contribution to the team has been understated and while punters might have not always seen the work he does, coaches and his teammates always appreciate his effort in the little things that make a Rugby side tick.
"His best attributes are his work rate and the defensive side of the game but to do that you’ve got to be a real team player and selfless. Not a lot of people on the outside see the role he’s played within our team over the years, the little one percenters that no one sees but are appreciated by the coaches and players who play alongside him. I was really pleased to see him win the top tackler award last year an area he prides himself on" said Cudjoe.
Even after passing the 300 appearance mark, Lawrence isn't done yet. He insists "my body feels good, feel great actually and I’m looking forward to another few years."
His career has seen many great moments, but Lawrence's favourite was lifting the club's first major trophy, the League Leaders Shield, in 51 years. His target for the rest of his career? To win another trophy, be it Challenge Cup, Super League or League Leaders Shield.
"I’ve had loads of great memories, my debut, my first try, the usual stuff. But winning the League Leaders Shield has to be the best moment for me so far. To lift a trophy with my hometown team is something that I’ll never forget and I’ll strive to do it again and lift silverware again with this team. Whether it’s a League Leaders Shield, a Grand Final or a Challenge Cup – that’s the goal to lift another piece of silverware."
Lawrence also took a stand against racism prior to the restart in 2020, speaking out about his experiences on Sky Sports and subsequently being appointed to the RFL's inclusion board and anti-racism campaign, TackleIt. He told Sky Sports on his appointment that he wanted to be part of the solution of tackling racism.
"It definitely means a lot. Obviously, the situation and the issues that arose last year, were very personal and something I could really relate to, so I wanted to make sure that I didn't just start the process I wanted to see it through and hopefully be part of some actual change" said Lawrence.
Lawrence has become part of the folklore at Huddersfield Giants, and from humble beginnings, as a young winger in Super League, Bruno and his fellow homegrown stars who broke out at the same time, Cudjoe and Jermaine McGillvary, have formed a tight-knit group and now form the core of the experienced leaders in the team.
"In the academy, we became closer but it wasn’t until we both were a full time that we became close mates, now we have the same group of friends and he’s godparent to my two girl's and I’m godparent to his daughter," said Cudjoe.
"We’ve both got older, wise and now have our own little family’s that are really close to. Me, Bruno and Jez are all really close including our family’s, we’ve become leaders amongst the group so we keep each other in check, get advice from one another to make sure we're doing the best we can for the team.
Finally, Cudjoe had this to say on the occasion of this Giants legend's 300th Huddersfield Giants appearance:
"He's a great Friend, Godparent and Teammate."