COREY PARKER - LIFE AFTER FOOTY
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.”
Corey Parker and his wife Margaux arrive at the CMC Music Awards in Brisbane.
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.
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