WHEN news broke on Monday that Corey Parker was to announce his retirement from the NRL, my immediate reaction was that he had been pushed.
After all, it had been just a few weeks ago that he announced on the Sterlo show on Fox that he was keen to play on for maybe another two seasons.
But I am reliably informed that Parker’s snap decision was his, and his alone.
And it was a conclusion brought about by Father Time, that old bloke who nags away at all of us.
Parker turned 34 in May but still plays with the same intensity he did when he was a head-shaven 18-year-old NRL debutant.
But now it takes him much longer to recover. Too long, his body is apparently telling him.
With sincerity, charisma and humility – traits not always displayed by Parker during his 17-year NRL career – he announced on Monday that this season would be his last.
And while his Kangaroos, Queensland and Broncos jersey will be filled by someone else next year, his absence will leave a considerable void, especially at Red Hill.
At the start of his career, Corey Parker was a good player.
He evolved into a very good player around mid-2000, and was instrumental in the 2006 premiership win despite making 10 of his 25 appearances that season from the bench.
From around 2010, when he started playing consistently in the back row, Parker’s career blossomed.
An offload appeared, he became a tackling machine and more often than not he was the Broncos forward carving out the most metres.
He was, as hackneyed as this may read, like a good red wine. The more he aged the better he became.
Since 2011 Parker has missed just one Origin match, has played 12 Tests and been a part of four Four Nations tournaments and the 2013 World Cup.
He has, quite simply, become an indispensable member of every team in which he plays.
His performance in last year’s record-breaking Origin III win by Queensland, which helped win him the prestigious Wally Lewis Medal, was arguably his finest hour.
He had 19 runs for 147metres, made five tackle busts, had four offloads and pulled off 25 tackles.
Then last season Parker won his third Paul Morgan Medal as Broncos player of the year, joining legends Darren Lockyer and Petero Civoniceva as three-time winners, two behind the masterful Allan Langer.
Although he stressed on Monday the importance to him of a teammate not looking in his direction and wondering “maybe he’s past it”, Parker is nowhere near a spent force.
And that adds the curiosity factor to this unexpected announcement.
But then personal pride can be a great a motivator.
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