Maroons lock Corey Parker carried off the field in his final Origin appearance at Suncorp Stadium.

Why Corey Parker will miss Origin most

Few players have ever made it back after five years in the Origin wilderness.

The closest form of purgatory for rugby league's elite, watching on as one of millions when you used to be one of the 34 on centre stage is a form of torture that takes years to resolve.

That is why when Corey Parker runs out for Queensland for the 19th time on Wednesday night it will be a moment that he treasures just as much as his first appearance 13 years earlier.

Former New South Wales centre Brad Izzard is the only player to have waited longer between Origin call-ups than Parker, the Panthers powerhouse earning his recall in 1991 having made his debut for the Blues way back in 1982.

Like Parker, Gavin Miller and Josh Perry both had five years in between Origin stints but no Queensland player other than Parker has ever made their way back into the team after such a sustained absence.

Parker's renaissance as one of the most influential forwards of his era began a couple of years prior to his Origin recall but by going back to the then 29-year-old in 2011 Maroons selectors validated his status in the game.

Last year he was left almost speechless in the Queensland dressing sheds as he cradled the Wally Lewis Medal as the player of the series and now ahead of his final Origin appearance can reflect on what makes this interstate exchange so compelling.

He knew the pain of having to surrender his jersey but has seen in the past five years in visits to Longreach, Bundaberg, Emerald, Proserpine and Gladstone how one team's success influences an entire state.

"I've always said and I still believe that Origin is one of those arenas that everyone should have the opportunity to experience. They're just a special, special arena but everyone doesn't get that opportunity," Parker tells NRL.com.

"When I first started playing Origin in 2004 to where it is now, it's a phenomenon. It's changed, the game has got a lot different, the whole hype around it and you just want to be a part of that.

"It's special and it's special for many reasons. You're representing your state at the highest level and you've just got to see what it does for Queenslanders as a whole.

"From as far north as Bamaga to Coolangatta and out west, for that period of time, particularly after a win, you see Queensland hats, you see the colours… It means a fair bit.

"When you pull on that jersey you're pulling on those expectations and you don't want to let those people down. That's certainly how I look at it.

"People drive two and three hours to come and see the Queensland side and you see what it does to those towns. That's pretty special."

 


Of course, Parker's Origin farewell is the first of what will likely be many in the coming months as the curtain draws to a close on his 16 seasons in the NRL and his status as one of the most capped players that the game has ever known.

Darren Lockyer's record of 355 games will remain agonisingly out of reach but at 34 years of age and with four young children Parker says he is excited about the prospect of what's to come and going out while at the top of his game.

"Making the announcement was a relief to be honest because I obviously knew for a bit of time what I wanted to do and I was carrying that around with me so it was like a weight off," said Parker.

"The talk afterwards was shock because it was reported by you guys in the media that I was going to re-sign. No one had actually come and asked me what my thoughts were, and that's fine.

"There was no defining moment. There are big sacrifices that come when you play rugby league, a lot more than I suppose meets the eye and I'm excited about what's next.

"I'm looking forward to what's next. The three days after a game when you're struggling, those things all play a part.

"The 80 minutes on the weekend is the enjoyable part. It's the six days leading up...

"Rugby league is a lot more than just a game now. It's a business, a full-time job and I've been very fortunate to be a part of that but I am excited about what's coming."

But as he much as he is excited about what the future may bring, Parker knows that like those who have come before him that Origin will always have a special hold over him, long after he's hung up the boots.

"They're the games that you get itchy feet and I don't think that changes," he said.

"I still hear Peter Sterling and 'Fatty' Vautin talk about Origin and what it means to them, I don't think that feeling will ever leave."