Parker's departure no motivation for Maroons
It will be Corey Parker's last Origin match in Queensland on Wednesday night but Maroons coach Kevin Walters has urged his players to look beyond the influence of just one man and instead play for the people of the state that they represent.
Opinion has been divided on Parker's decision to announce his retirement at the end of the season two days out from potentially the biggest rugby league match of the year but both Walters and Blues counterpart Laurie Daley expressed surprise at the 34-year-old's decision.
The recipient of the Wally Lewis Medal last year as the best player in the 2015 Holden State of Origin Series, Parker had intimated that he was keen to play on in 2017 but instead has decided to make this year his 16th and final NRL season with the Broncos.
As the Blues have skipper Paul Gallen playing in his last Origin series the announcement of Parker's impending retirement added an extra layer of motivation to a Queensland team desperate to wrap up the series on home soil, but Walters has instead told his players to look to the stands for inspiration.
News came through on Tuesday afternoon that Suncorp Stadium was officially a sell-out on Wednesday night and Walters believes the power that can be harnessed from the Queensland fans in the stands could prove the difference in what he predicts will be another classic tight Origin contest.
"I don't believe it needs that," Walters said of Parker providing any extra motivation to his teammates.
"Playing here in front of these wonderful, passionate people that we have here in Queensland is enough. Our players are really looking forward to playing here on the Suncorp Stadium pitch.
"There are going to be times [on Wednesday] night when the team is doing it tough and looking for a little bit of energy and the crowd often provides that energy.
"We're looking forward to them coming through in their thousands with the Maroons kit on and being really passionate.
"There's a lot been said about the players and what Origin's about but to me most of Origin is about the fans and the support and the passion that they provide for these players to perform."
Parker's announcement at Broncos Leagues Club was made on a day off for Maroons players and Walters said it had not impacted on their preparation in any way with both teams getting through Tuesday's captain's runs intact.
"It hasn't been disruptive in any way, the players have just got on with their lives of preparing for the biggest game of their careers again," Walters said.
"It's important for Corey that he made the decision and he can get on with his footballing life for the rest of the season and hopefully he puts in a great performance for Queensland again tomorrow night.
"The important thing for us is that Corey Parker plays well. That's what we need him to do tomorrow night.
"Everyone else will be looking after themselves and Corey will be looking after himself.
"He's been a great player for Queensland over the period and certainly since he's arrived back in the team he's had some outstanding results."
Blues coach Laurie Daley was asked on Tuesday whether he thought the timing of Parker's announcement was strange but said the only thing that caught him off-guard was the decision itself.
"The thing I found strange was that I thought he'd go around again," Daley said.
"He's certainly playing good enough so it shocked me that he's going to retire.
"He's been a wonderful servant and they'll be looking to play really well to send him off on a winning note.
"I thought he still had plenty more good footy left in him."