COREY PARKER - LIFE AF­TER FOOTY

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FROM skin­head to grey hair; rookie to re­spected vet­eran. For Bris­bane Bron­cos re­tir­ing star Corey Parker, 16 years of play­ing rugby league has been a long and wind­ing jour­ney.

One of the few play­ers in the mod­ern game to have stayed a one-club man for his en­tire pro­fes­sional ca­reer, the for­mer Queens­land and Aus­tralian rep­re­sen­ta­tive de­cided to hang up the boots in 2016.

Life af­ter foot­ball has al­ready thrown up its own chal­lenges. With the launch of his new au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, Iron­man, Parker said it wasn’t un­til he was sit­ting at his own book sign­ing that he re­alised the whirl­wind had fi­nally eased.

“When we first launched (the book) it was a lit­tle bit over­whelm­ing,” he said. “Per­son­ally there was the re­tire­ment, and then there was the of­fi­cial last home game with the Bron­cos, and

then there was the fi­nals and the book tour.

“It was just go-go-go there for a while, and it was re­ally nice when I got to the book sign­ings. To be face to face with the peo­ple who had given their time to come and see me.

“I found that re­ally nice and it was a way for me to say thank you to them for turn­ing up.”

For some­one whose week would reg­u­larly con­sist of run­ning out into a sta­dium packed with thousands of scream­ing fans, the for­mer Bris­bane cap­tain is sur­pris­ingly hum­ble about his time in the pub­lic eye.

Still just a boy from Lo­gan at heart, Parker ad­mit­ted he was sur­prised so many peo­ple wanted to hear his story.

“Again it was a bit over­whelm­ing,” he said.

“I look at my­self as one of those peo­ple, just one of the norm. “I don’t treat my­self any dif­fer­ent to any­one else. The fact that I have done what I have done in my ca­reer or cho­sen field doesn’t make me any bet­ter than the next.

“That’s why it was nice just to say g’day and thank th­ese peo­ple who have spent their money to buy my story which makes you a bit warm and fuzzy in­side. I’ve got­ten re­ally good feed­back from dif­fer­ent peo­ple.”

More than a decade of pro­fes­sional sport has given the 34-year-old an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the op­por­tu­nity he has been given.

While some young ath­letes have bat­tled with hav­ing their per­son­al­ity thrust into the pub­lic spot­light, Parker ac­knowl­edged that it was be­cause of the fans that he has been able to spend his life play­ing the game he loves.

“That’s part and par­cel of what we do in pro­fes­sional sport,” he said. “The fans for me are the most im­por­tant and I try to recog­nise those peo­ple through­out my ca­reer, with­out them we have no games.

“They come from all walks of life and it’s im­por­tant to recog­nise them. They’ve all got a pas­sion for the game that I love and they’ve been very kind to me.

“It’s only fit­ting that I say thank you to them.”

Be­fore all the fame and for­tune, Parker grew up play­ing ju­nior foot­ball at Lo­gan Brothers. Liv­ing just down the road from fu­ture Aus­tralian team­mate and cap­tain Cameron Smith, the two shared a ship­ping con­tainer for a dress­ing room.

Now an am­bas­sador for Lo­gan City Coun­cil, Parker was given the spe­cial hon­our of be­ing in­ducted into Lo­gan Sport­ing Hall of Fame along­side heavy­weight world box­ing cham­pion Alex Lea­pai.

Join­ing a host of home-grown heroes, Parker ad­mit­ted the award was close to his heart.

“To be hon­est I had so much go­ing on that I didn’t re­ally know about the awards un­til just be­fore it hap­pened,” he said.

“It was very nice to be given the award and to be in­ducted into the Hall of Fame.

“When you’re a young kid you have dreams and as­pi­ra­tions but look­ing back and see­ing some of the names and nom­i­nees of peo­ple who have won the award be­fore, there’s some amaz­ing peo­ple to come out of the Lo­gan area.

“It’s al­ways hum­bling to re­ceive awards like that.” Known as one of the great “work­horses” in the rugby league world, the for­mer Bris­bane cap­tain is well equipped to deal with life as a fam­ily man.

Joined by wife Mar­gaux and their four young chil­dren, River

Mon­roe, Mem­phis and sons Wylei and Jag­ger, run­ning a fam­ily of six is another full-time job.

“I’m right in the thick of it at the mo­ment,” he laughed. “I take my hat off to my wife, she’s done a fan­tas­tic job.

“What’s next for me is a lit­tle un­known. It is ex­cit­ing on the one hand, and on the other you are kind of walk­ing into that un­known and un­fa­mil­iar ter­ri­tory.

“I am ex­cited but I must ad­mit I’m mak­ing a real con­scious ef­fort to just take a good break away from the game at present.”

Not spend­ing time with his young fam­ily has been a tough sac­ri­fice for the fu­ture Fox Sports com­men­ta­tor. Re­lieved of the pres­sure of play­ing foot­ball ev­ery week, Parker said it was now time to take a few risks he couldn’t en­ter­tain be­fore now.

“That’s just one of those lux­u­ries for me,” he said. “For 16 years I haven’t had a bike, I’ve been able to ride one but haven’t gone down that path be­cause of footy.

“When I was at the Bron­cos they didn’t ap­pre­ci­ate you get­ting into mo­tor­bikes so that was that. Now that I don’t have to an­swer to that I can do those things.

“Another thing I’m look­ing for­ward to is ski­ing. I’ve never wa­ter-skied or snow-skied just be­cause I didn’t want to try some­thing like that when at the end of the day it’s my team­mates who suf­fer.

“We’re all adults but it only takes one small slip and you hear so many sto­ries on the slopes. I never wanted to take that risk but now I can be­cause I don’t have to play any more.”

With the days of play­ing elite-level sport now be­hind him, Parker said it was a dif­fer­ent ex­pe­ri­ence walk­ing into a gym with­out the pres­sure of be­ing match-ready at all times.

Still a gym-junkie at heart, he said now the mo­ti­va­tion was purely per­sonal.

“Train­ing is part of my life,” he ad­mit­ted. “It’s some­thing I’m still do­ing now and I guess the only dif­fer­ence is that it is a lit­tle bit of a mind game.

“I’ve got­ten to the end of a ses­sion and thought, hang on, you haven’t trained hard enough. Pre­vi­ously I’ve had to be at that level for a game and it is hard.

“Now I just train to keep fit and healthy and to look good so that was a big dif­fer­ence. Be­cause it has be­come such a large part of my life it’s just some­thing you do.”

While not ev­ery­one can af­ford an in-house gym and sauna, just like most par­ents Parker said find­ing the right time was cru­cial to keep­ing up his own rou­tine in the gym.

“Con­ve­nience is a huge part of ev­ery­thing we do in all facets of life,” he said. “I’ve got my own gym at home and I know not ev­ery­one has that lux­ury or that abil­ity.

“For me, I had two weeks of just wak­ing up when the kids woke up and that’s just some­thing I’m not used to. Af­ter about two weeks I was go­ing crazy and had to get some struc­ture and rou­tine back.

“I ended up get­ting up at 5am and get­ting started. That works for me. I need the rou­tine and af­ter a quick work­out, sauna and swim and you’re done by 6am and ready to tackle the day.”

Now set­tled at home, Parker has been given time to re­flect on a long and glit­ter­ing ca­reer on the foot­ball field.

With his per­sonal story open to all in print, the vet­eran for­ward said he would have liked one more mo­ment of glory to end his cap­taincy at the Bron­cos.

“I would have liked to have had one more chap­ter with a grand fi­nal win,” he said. “But that wasn’t to be and that’s just footy and that’s life.

“Now I can look back and re­flect and think that I en­joyed that. It was a hell of a ride. Over that pe­riod that I made my an­nounce­ment I made a real ef­fort to en­joy what was left.

“All I tried to do as a player is not let my team­mates down and just try to be that guy peo­ple wanted to play with.

“If some­one thinks of Corey Parker or my legacy as some­one who tried their very best ev­ery time he took the field and didn’t let any­one down, I’d be happy with that.”

Now with a full-time ca­reer on the other side of the cam­era ahead of him, Parker said he was look­ing for­ward to see­ing where his fu­ture with Fox Sports would take him.

“I don’t think I’m go­ing to be be­hind a lit­tle recorder writ­ing sto­ries in the Courier-Mail about peo­ple,” he laughed. “My role will be giv­ing an opin­ion of the game which is some­thing I look for­ward to do­ing.

“I un­der­stand how the game works and what’s re­quired both from the me­dia side and the player’s side. Hope­fully I can give a good bal­ance there and kick some goals with it.”

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PHOTO: BEN SYMONS

Corey Parker and his wife Mar­gaux ar­rive at the CMC Mu­sic Awards in Bris­bane.

PHOTO: PAUL MILLER

Top: Corey cel­e­brates 300 games at the Bron­cos with his fam­ily. PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED Left: Corey as a tod­dler. PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED Above: Corey Parker is tack­led by Mitchell Aubus­son of the Roost­ers dur­ing an NRL match be­tween the Syd­ney Roost­ers and the Bris­bane Bron­cos at Al­lianz Sta­dium in Syd­ney in 2016.

PHOTO: CON­TRIB­UTED

Why teams play sport... to win a premier­ship!

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