COREY Parker is a self-made champion, which explains why he is retiring from rugby league at a time when many believe he is playing some of his best football.
A winner in his Origin debut in Brisbane in the second game of the 2004 series, Parker will play his 19th and final Origin tonight.
He bows out having been part of a Queensland team that can claim to be the best ever, but painfully one game short of earning the prestigious Dick Turner Medal – a highly sought-after medal named after the popular former Maroons team manager, for players reaching 20 Origin games.
Parker also played in the last match in the 2004 series and the third game of 2005, when New South Wales wrapped up a third-straight series victory with a comprehensive 32-10 win.
But when Queensland selectors ran an axe through their side for the first game of 2006 under new coach Mal Meninga, Parker was one of 11 players dumped.
There were concerns then about his attitude. To his credit, however, he turned those around later in his career and used them as a positive – to the extent he is now captain of the highest-profile club in the NRL.
There’s no doubt Parker used the pain and disappointment of losing his Origin jumper to make changes, not just to his game, but also as a person.
When Meninga ushered in a new-look Maroons side in 2006 that included rookie Greg Inglis, recalled centre Justin Hodges, young North Queensland bull Matt Scott, Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday – who celebrated his 21st birthday in camp – and another young player from Cairns, Nate Myles, who was starting to make a reputation as a tough, hard forward for Canterbury, Parker’s name, along with a lot of others, was missing.
The pain burned deep inside him and he had to wait until 2011 before being given his fourth Maroons jumper and a shot at redemption.
This time though, he didn’t take it for granted. He knows exactly what it means to pull it on and he has worn it proudly in 15 of the past 17 Origins, as one of Queensland’s best and most consistent performers.
Former Brisbane, Queensland and Australian teammate Petero Civoniceva describes Parker as extremely singled-minded early in his career.
“He was a young guy coming into a club (the Broncos) with a forward pack who had been together for a while and he was very competitive in everything he did,” Civoniceva told Australian Regional Media.
“I remember him as a young bloke – he had a confidence about himself and he wouldn’t back down in anything we did, which is why he has had the career he has had.
“We had (Shane) Webcke and Gordie (Tallis) and Brad Thorn, all established guys, and he was a young guy trying to crack into the team and he did that because he was so determined.
“It’s a testament to him that he fought his way back into the Origin side after so long on the outer.
“Corey was very single-minded, driven and determined. Whether those traits were interpreted by some as arrogant, I’m not sure, but he was a bloke who knew what he wanted and they were the hallmarks of a young Corey Parker.
“He retires as captain of the Brisbane Broncos and a member of this wonderful Queensland side and that’s all you can do.
“He’s achieved it all.”
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