How Richard Parks found out the hard way that there is life after rugby
时间：2019-09-15 责任编辑：綦斥 来源：兴发娱乐平台 点击：20 次
The list of inspirational Welsh rugby union players is a long and evocative one. Even kids in England grew up calling them simply by their initials or first names – JJ, JPR, Merv the Swerve, Barry, Gerald, Gareth.
I can’t have been the only English schoolboy to spend his youth trying to torpedo the ball from right to left like . Every time a current player opts for a dull, conservative AFL-style straight-on punt to the corner, another tiny chunk of the game’s romantic appeal heads for Row Z.
To the great individuals on this distinguished roll of red-shirted honour, however, can now be added a modern-day superhero. He won just four caps for Wales but what does that statistic actually mean? That he transcended the ability he was born with, or that he underachieved? That he was the unluckiest of men, or among the most blessed? Often it is not until such players retire and their professional body armour is stripped away that you really discover the truth.
Which brings us to Richard Parks, once a flanker for Pontypridd, Leeds Tykes, Perpignan and Newport Gwent Dragons among other clubs, who retired from rugby through injury in 2009. Some of today’s young internationals may not be familiar with his CV; it is, after all, more than a decade since he won the last of those four caps for Wales, against Scotland in August 2003. Not many kids used to run around their local park pretending to be Parks.
Frankly, they should start doing so immediately. The 37-year-old has just written a book* and contained within it are some of the most honest, heartfelt, insightful passages you will find in any sporting autobiography. He was assisted in the task by Michael Aylwin of this parish and, between them, they have done an exceptional job in whipping away the emotional screens which so often separate professional athletes from the rest of us.
Even those who vaguely know of Parks’s extraordinary latter-day achievements in the field of mountaineering and endurance – he has become the first person in history to climb the highest peak on each of the seven continents and ski to the north and south poles in the same calendar year– will be startled when they learn the full circumstances of how his unprecedented wilderness odyssey was triggered.
Specifically they will wince at the way he frequently felt during his playing days – “Fear informed every move of my rugby career … the fear of making mistakes, being dropped and, worst of all, letting down my team-mates” – and share his pain during the desperate days after it all abruptly ended. For three weeks he shut himself away in his parents’ spare room as the horror – the horror! – swirled around him, emerging only for an operation on his shattered shoulder.
“Rugby had controlled every decision of my adult life. I had sacrificed so much to be the best I could be. Rugby had determined when I ate and slept. Ninety per cent of my social life was in rugby. And now it was gone, with no chance of coming back. I was petrified. What do I do? Where do I go? Who am I?”
Be honest. How many of us would not feel the same if the central pillar of our universe were suddenly to be removed? That sense of dislocation from the brotherhood of rugby, in Parks’s case, was profound. A “crushing melancholy” descended, not so much a consequence of self-pity but of no longer belonging. “The feeling that you’re part of something bigger. The team, the club, the town, the country. To be cut loose from that …”
Parks, thankfully, found an alternative form of self-expression. After tattooing on his arm a phrase he recalled from his grandmother’s funeral – “The horizon is only the limit of our sight” – and reading about the adventures of Sir Ranulph Fiennes, he embarked on a journey of self-discovery which has transcended the confines of the rugby fields he once inhabited. To read his story is not simply to salute the strength of the human spirit but to recognise that nothing worthwhile in life comes easy.
There is a lesson here for every professional rugby player preparing to line up in European fixtures this week, whether in the Champions Cup or the secondary Challenge Cup. In hindsight, Parks reckons the personal insecurity he once regarded as a curse has become a strength, a powerful inner force which can be harnessed when required. Anyone with a tendency to doubt themselves – or who wonder if they have it in them to prosper in the wider world – should buy his book.
* (Sphere £14.99)
Imagine if three separate British players scored touchdowns on the same weekend of the NFL season? You can imagine “The Brits Are Coming” headlines easily enough. So let us do the same in reverse for American rugby after Chris Wyles, and all scored Premiership tries in round six. Manoa went on to score a hat-trick, underlining exactly why he is among the MVPs – see, it’s catching – in the league. If anything is going to help fuel the smouldering fires of American interest in union in the buildup to next year’s Rugby World Cup it is a nice little video montage of their boys doing good overseas.
ONE TO WATCH THIS WEEK ...
Australia v New Zealand in Brisbane. To be a modern Wallaby is to exist in an apparently endless cycle of speculation and off-field turmoil.
, coach Ewen McKenzie’s management: it is easy to forget it is less than two months since in Sydney with Beale scoring all his side’s points. Both sides will want this final Bledisloe Cup contest to serve as a message to their European rivals ahead of their upcoming northern hemisphere tours; quite what message Australia will actually end up sending is anybody’s guess.