Ahead of State of Origin II, the Maroons’ Corey Parker talks longevity, discipline and dedication. By Richard Cooke.


The stalwart: Corey Parker, 33, rugby league player

When I first started playing the game at professional level, I was 18. When you’re 18, you think everything’s just fine and dandy, very rosy – you’re doing what you love. If you’d asked me at 18, “Are you going to be playing in 15 years’ time; what do you have to do to be able to do that?” I might not have had an answer. But having done it, it’s hard work. Dedication. Discipline. There are some very key words there.

I’ve never struggled for motivation, although I’ve been very fortunate that I have now done everything I want in the game. But it’s taken me 15 years. There are times throughout the years when you question yourself. You think, “Have I still got it; can I still do it?” 

You have to have a lot more reasons to succeed than just trying to inflate your ego. I’ve been very fortunate to have played alongside some of the game’s greatest, and they’re very humble people. They know they have the ability, they’ve got the confidence. I believe when you see a younger guy with an ego that big, it’s generally a masking agent for something else. There is a difference between having an ego and self-satisfaction. You look at [former Kangaroos captain] Darren Lockyer, for example, or [current captain] Cameron Smith, you watch tennis and see Roger Federer. Jeez, you’d be hard pushed to say that those guys have got egos. They let their actions do the talking. So you try to learn from people like that.

I don’t believe in luck. You make your own, particularly in what you can do to minimise or maximise your risk. Preparation, the way you manage yourself, the way you go about your work. I haven’t had any season-ending injuries. Whether that’s just luck or down to good management or a bit of both, I’m not sure.

Having children has been one of the best things for my football career. I’ve got an amazing wife and a very good support base around me in terms of family. I had my first child nearly five years ago, and it just gave me a whole new outlook in what I was doing. I’m not just doing it for myself anymore. I’ve got a lot of other people to look after. My actions have an effect on everyone around me, particularly those in my family. I certainly would like to leave a legacy that they’re going to be proud of.

When I first played with Michael Ennis, I didn’t like him. I think it was the end of 2005 – I had a vision in my head of the guy that I’d seen on the field. But when he came to my club, as anyone does, you welcome them with open arms and pretty much from the day he turned up we just hit it off. He’s just one of those really, really genuine guys who has the integrity of someone you want to have your kids around or someone you want people to know or meet.

But then, on the field, he’s just that competitor. Nothing he does is dirty, it’s not malicious, he’s a competitor. In a popularity contest not many people might vote for him, but I can assure you, if I was picking a side, he’d be one of the first guys I’d pick. Just purely on the way he competes and the way he goes about his business.

The best sledger in the game? Cameron Smith. He has the respect of everyone out there but, in terms of manipulating, he can make someone feel relaxed to the point where he could say anything he wanted. He’s got that knack. I’ve seen him talk to referees – they may as well give him the bloody whistle and let him take over. On the flip side, I’ve obviously played against him a number of times and it makes me irate to see that. So he’s doing a job there, he’s getting under my skin to some degree, getting me cranky.

I’ve learnt over a long period of time to adjust to my emotions. When I was much younger I was that very outspoken player. When I was captain, if I ever had a valid point, I’d address the referee. It doesn’t really succeed much. We had a game last year, one of the refs had a shocker. There was a try, and I think they couldn’t declare it a try. Anyway, about five minutes later, we crossed the line again and the ref went upstairs. I said, “Mate, you’re a bit dodgy. You don’t want to make a call now, do you?” And he said, “Look mate, I apologise. We got that wrong before.” That’s the first time I’ve ever had a ref apologise to me for making the wrong call.

1 . This week’s highlights…

• Soccer: FIFA Women’s World Cup – Australia v Nigeria

Saturday, 6.30am (AEST), Winnipeg Stadium, Winnipeg, Canada

• Basketball: NBA Finals series game 5, best of seven – Cleveland Cavaliers v Golden State Warriors 

Monday, 10am (AEST), Oracle Arena, Oakland, California

• Cricket: West Indies v Australia second Test

Daily 12.45am (AEST) (ends Monday), Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica

• AFL: North Melbourne v Sydney Swans

Saturday, 7.20pm, Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

• NRL: State of Origin game 2

Wednesday, 8pm, Melbourne Cricket Ground

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 13, 2015 as "The stalwart".

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Richard Cooke is a contributing editor to The Monthly, and the 2018 Mumbrella Publish Award Columnist of the Year.

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