In Corey Parker’s garage, there sits a very special car. The registration papers will tell you it’s a 1938 model Plymouth, but it came into existence a lot later than that.
It’s a car that Parker built with his father “from scratch” and in so many ways it sums up what drives this humble but gifted forward who, with his million horse power engine and his streak of chrome on top, has developed into somewhat of a Brisbane hot rod.
“That’s pretty dear to me [the Plymouth],” Parker says. “That was an achievement. I get on with my dad like he’s one of my best mates.”
There are the sports cars of the world – the flashy 2012 model Ben Barba, for example, can go 0-100m in just one tackle. You’ve also got your trusty family station wagons, such as a 1998 Civoniceva that’s going just as strong today as when it left the factory. It can carry the weight of four men and is ideal for short, 10-metre journeys.
But in the great NRL caryard, it’s the Corey Parker that the dealers are queuing up to sell. It goes and goes and goes. It gets knocked around like a hockey puck but is never off the road for very long. Sure it’s racked up 250 games on the odometer, but if the wildly popular Dream Team draft is anything to go by, it’s very collectible. It’s got guts, it’s got ink and it’s yours for $377,500 on road – in Dream Team currency, of course.
“I’m aware of the fact that I do score well in Dream Team,” Parker admits. “I did a thing up [in Brisbane] with the Courier Mail so I got the ins and outs of how it all works.”
Parker laughs at how his scoring ability has defined his later career. In fact it’s all anyone wants to talk about.
“When I get injured, people’s first question is, ‘How long are you going to be out for? Should I trade you or hold on to you?’ It’s a bit comical. I’ve got a Twitter account and when I was injured this year that was the most asked question.”
In an era of Slaters, Smiths, Thurstons and Carneys, the humble and reliable Parker is the highest-scoring Dream Teamer in the NRL.
Watching him work, that will come as no surprise. And it’s no wonder that Parker has a soft spot for cars either. To keep his rugby league dream alive, Parker and his mum were forced to grow very familiar with the family wagon.
“I lived an hour away from Brisbane when I was young trying to make it,” Parker remembers. “Mum, without fail in rain, hail or shine, she’d drive me an hour and wait in the car while I trained and drive me an hour home.
“[My parents] are still my biggest fans. Mum’s probably my biggest critic as well, which is handy. If I ever want to know how I’m going, she’ll tell me.”
Asked how his mum ranks with Wayne Bennett as a master coach, Parker was quick to respond: “She’s on par, very much on par. She’s pretty fair, hard but fair. If she thinks things are going good or I’ve done a good job, she’ll tell me. But if I’ve been going ordinary, she’ll let me know.
“And I owe a lot of what I’ve achieved in the latter part of my career to my wife. It’s a tough thing at times, rugby league, but it’s even tougher when your loved ones are away,” he says. “But when you’ve got two small kids and a wife that can support you the way mine does, it’s very nice.”
Parker openly admits that he doesn’t know what he’d be doing without his parents, his wife, rugby league and the Broncos. In fact the club famous for bringing happiness to south-east Queensland for more than 20 years might just have saved Parker from himself.
“When I arrived at the club I was 17 and thought I was bulletproof, and no one was going to stop me,” he says. “I pay a lot of tribute to the Broncos for the man they’ve moulded me into. If I wasn’t involved in the club who knows where I’d be or what I’d have achieved.
“When I first laced a boot on when I was 8, all I wanted to do was play for the Broncos and that day came when I was 19. To be here 12 years later I guess you’ve got to pinch yourself.”
Ahead of his 251st NRL game, Parker describes himself as “a very driven person”. And like the vintage Plymouth hot rod that he put together with his own hands, he seems to only be getting better with age.
Remember, there are still great weekly prizes up for grabs, including $500 in cash every week, so if you have family or friends that are yet to sign up there is still time to get them involved. The Dream Team coach who achieves the top weekly round score over the entire season, as well as receiving the weekly prize pack in the round they achieve the best score, will also win at the end of the season the BONUS cash prize of $1,000 and 4 x NRL Category 1 Grand Final Tickets!