Origin legend who almost wasn't signs off

Super Freak

Super Freak

International Captain
Forum Staff
Jan 25, 2014
IN COREY Parker’s mind, he was playing his way back into the Queensland State of Origin side.

Then Parker, deep into his five-year absence from the Maroons team in 2006-10, started being sent newsletters from the Former Origin Greats organisation, which uses the profile of generations of Queensland representatives for charitable causes.

Most Origin careers don’t last five years, much less have a five-year hole in their span.

But the Broncos forward did not think of his Origin career in the past tense, even if he knew others, increasingly, were.

“I received those (newsletters) during that period and I was really filthy that I was receiving it,” recalled Parker, who plays his 19th and last game for Queensland tonight to cap one of rugby league’s most rousing career second acts.

“It was one more thing to make me want to get back into the Origin arena.”

FOGS chief executive Gene Miles explained yesterday that, since the organisation’s creation in 1997, contact addresses and phone numbers for current and past players were put on a data base once they played their first game.

Information is sent out commonly to those.

But as a FOG himself, Miles can empathise with a footballer finding motivation whichever way he can.

Parker’s announcement last month that he would be retiring at season’s end at the age of 34 caught his Origin teammates mostly by surprise.

Recognised even by Origin’s three-game-a-year viewers of league by the grey in his hair, he has become in the past three seasons one of the game’s true blue-chip forwards.

“That’s his decision, even though we thought he could keep playing,” said Cameron Smith, the Maroons skipper who hails, like Parker, from the Logan Brothers junior club.

“I remember when Corey came back from five years without an opportunity to play, you could tell by how he trained and how he spoke at camp what it meant to him and that he wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip again.”

Parker and Smith agree on the Maroons No.13’s finest Origin moment, Queensland’s record 52-6 pummelling of NSW in the third game of last year’s series.

“He was the man of the match by a mile. It looked like he was a man on a mission to take the whole team on,” Smith said.

Parker said: “It’s the one that stands out, how we played after losing the year before. I was lucky enough to get the Wally Lewis Medal (as best player of the series on either side).”

Son of a truck driver father, Greg, Parker moved with his family from Logan to Jimboomba when he was 11, while he kept playing for his Logan league club.

In 1997, he made a Queensland under-17 representative side with Brent Tate, a future Broncos, Queensland and Australian teammate who would be one of his best friends in the sport.

“One thing about Cozza is he is his own man and always has been,” Tate said.

“I’ve never seen anyone put one over Cozza or see him take a backward step and I’ve known him since he was about 12.”

It’s that knowledge which makes Tate certain that conspiracy theories of Parker having been urged into retirement by Broncos coach Wayne Bennett are wrong.

“If Wayne tapped Cozza on the shoulder to go, Wayne would have had a fair argument on his hands – he’s never been pushed around,” Tate said.

“He’s always been self-assured. He’s never worried about what anyone else says about him and that can be a good trait.”

Away from football, close teammates know him for his love of country music and V8 motor cars.

“He loves singing karaoke and you can’t get him off the mic,” Tate said.

“He loves his hotted-up cars. He lives for the moment and has fun.”

While some players end their Origin careers in floods of worried tears, pointing to the onset of separation anxiety, Parker flashed a wide grin when he was chaired off by his teammates after Queensland’s win at Suncorp Stadium on June 22 to clinch his last series win with the Maroons.

For the rest of the NRL season with the Broncos, another friend, Darren Lockyer, reckons Parker will benefit from having set the finish line for himself. “I’m at ease with the decision,” Parker said.

“I treated the Brisbane match as a farewell game for me, with friends and family able to get there.

“It’s a big ask to get everyone down to Sydney. The way it unfolded was perfect, an emotional moment.

“I like to do things on my terms and I’ve set when I’m finishing.”

Around 10pm tonight, Parker will finally become a FOG.

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