Parks happy with life out west as a guiding hand to youth
Parks’ maternal grandfather, Dan, was born in Kilbirnie, Ayrshire, though that wasn’t a consideration when he first moved to Glasgow aged 25. “I thought it was going to be for two years, and here we are nearly 10 years later. It’s been an incredible ride.”
He’d never met Matt Williams prior to the latter inviting him to a Scottish camp, followed by his debut away to Wales in 2004 at the Millennium. “The roof was closed and the noise that stadium generates is just incredible. My mother flew over and my ex-girlfriend was there.”
Although he and a host of others would be retained during the Frank Hadden era, Parks was often still seen as Williams’ poster boy. “Certainly in Scotland,” says Parks, “but I stopped reading the press in 2005.”
Scotland’s player of the tournament at the 2007 World Cup, Parks was omitted by Andy Robinson in 2009, but after the opening 2010 Six Nations defeat to France, Parks was recalled in round two, against Wales at the Millennium Stadium again, for his second coming. “It was the most incredible game of rugby I’ve ever played in,” he says of that dramatic, 31-24 defeat. “We led 24-10, Tom Evans was forced to retire from rugby that day, Chris Paterson broke his ribs, we had two yellow cards at the end of the game and Rory Lamont buggered his knee. Unbelievable.”
He was man of the match that day, and against Italy and Ireland, as well as the first of a two-Test series win away to Argentina when scoring all of Scotland’s 24 points.
Like Nathan Hines and others, he was of a mind to retire after the 2011 World Cup, but with Ruaidhri Jackson, played the Six Nations opener at home to England. Scotland butchered seven line breaks that day, and a Charlie Hodgson chargedown try off a Parks kick contributed to a 13-6 defeat. He spoke to Robinson the next day and decided it was time to move on.
“There were highs and lows, but that’s sport, and it’s something I’ll always treasure.”
Parks gets pigeon holed at the best of times as a kicking outhalf, but it doesn’t bother him. “That’s fine. The reality is that a lot of games are won on kicks. What can you do? To me, rugby is all about winning games.”
Fighting against the odds with Connacht ought not be unlike representing Scotland. Frustratingly, a pre-season hamstring strain delayed this debut and now he has to hit the ground running for successive derbies and Connacht’s opening Heineken Cup games.
“It’s been a tricky start, one win from four. But it is what it is, we’ve just got to go for it. With the injury it’s been 16 weeks since I’ve played, now I’m dying to get out there. I never really lost it, but I feel revitalised. It’s made me appreciate how much I still love playing and being around rugby.”
PARKS: in points
Played: 67 (40+20R)
Pro 12: Glasgow and Cardiff
Played: 132 (111+21R)
Heineken Cup: Glasgow and Cardiff
Played: 52 (49+3R)