Parks happy with life out west as a guiding hand to youth
The former Scotland outhalf is relishing his time in Connacht and the chance to use his experience to help develop a young team, writes GERRY THORNLEY
DAMN HIM and blast him. Dan Parks remains the last man to score in a Test match at Croke Park; his 79th-minute penalty from the left touchline into a capricious wind earning Scotland a 23-20 win over Ireland in the 2010 Six Nations finale. As much as the kick itself, Parks also vividly remembers Jonathan Sexton visiting the Scottish dressingroom, despite his disappointment at being replaced and of losing.
“It was a special moment, the last game of the Six Nations. Jonny had started and just after the game, he came into the dressingroom and offered me his jersey. I tried to swap but he wanted nothing of it. He said it was my day and he was happy to give me his jersey. For a young guy to do something like that is pretty special.”
On the eve of his debut against Leinster and Sexton tomorrow night at the Sportsground, Connacht hope he can bring his match-winning touch to them. Casually dressed in runners, jeans, T-shirt and tracksuit top, despite his boyish appearance Parks is 34 now, but he is the league’s all-time leading points scorer to add to his haul of 266 for Scotland (including a Scottish record of 17 drop-goals).
Mindful of seven bonus-point defeats last season, and with an experienced, goalkicking general to guide the young backs around him, Parks can be a missing link. Just as pertinently, the Western-most outpost in European rugby might be what Parks needs too.
Eyeing a move to France, Parks was surprised when Connacht backs coach Billy Millard called him last December. “Then the more Eric Elwood got involved the more I started to think about it – a young team, me in the latter days of my career – I thought this was a good opportunity and challenge for me.”
He also saw this as a better stepping stone into coaching than the potential dead end of French club rugby. In the end, it was the right fit for me. I believe I still have a lot to offer, especially the game I play with the young guys coming through.
“I’d like to give them a bit of knowledge and hopefully steer the ship in the right direction, because I think there is a lot of good going on here.”
“I play rugby because I love the game and I love the competitive side of it. To me it’s always been about that. I think that’s why everyone as a little kid first plays rugby, not because you might become a professional one day.”
That love of the game kicked in when he moved to Marsden High School at 14, despite his family being big Sydney Roosters’ rugby league fans, and his paternal grandfather Arthur being a keen cricketer and tennis player while his dad Neal is “the biggest armchair sports fan you’ll ever meet”.
After Marsden, where Parks played everything, he broke into the New South Wales Under-21 and A sides, along with spells at West Harbour, Southern Districts and Eastern Suburbs.