RUGBY LEAGUE: Despite being in arguably the best form of his career, the fear of having teammates “look sideways at me” was a key factor in Corey Parker’s decision to retire at the end of the season.
Parker fought back tears as he confirmed his career as a professional rugby league player would not extend beyond 2016, despite knowing Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett was happy to have him go around as captain in 2017.
“He’s not going to make big 40-yard runs but what he does is take that dirty hit-up other players don’t want,” Bennett said.
“I never have to worry on game day what Corey is going to bring.”
With his wife, Margot, and four young children seated in the Broncos board room, Parker was highly emotional as he thanked everyone who had played any part in his 16-year journey, which started at Red Hill as a 17-year-old.
“I feel very fortunate to have come here as a 17-year-old and fulfil a dream with a club that I love playing for in a game that I love so much,” said the 34-year-old Queensland and Australian forward.
“It’s important to me to know I walk away from a game I love on my terms.
“You play this game for your mates and to not let them down.
“I didn’t want to ever get to a point where my mates were looking sideways at me thinking ‘maybe it has passed him’.”
Bennett, who gave Parker his start 16 years ago, said he was pleased he had won the battle with honesty that is required to make such a decision.
“He didn’t want the teammates, fans or me looking at him sideways because he has always played with such pride,” the Broncos coach said.
“Do you go another year and take that risk?
“We were happy to take him next year but now he leaves on his terms and in control of his own destiny, which is really important to him because he has always been his own man.”
Bennett couldn’t guarantee Parker a premiership send-off like he has done in previous years for other club legends, but he admitted his decision to retire would be a factor in the club’s push to go one better than last season.
“Three or four years ago I don’t know if they would have all played for Corey, but they’ll play for him now and that’s the difference and maturity,” he said.
Parker revealed the pain of losing his Origin jumper for six years, until recalled in 2011, drove him to be a better player and not to take anything for granted.
“From that day I made a pact to myself I would not be letting that jersey go. It’s something that means so much to me,” he said.
“At times in life you take things for granted and maybe I did that early on.”