Former Scotland stand-off Dan Parks flew to Dubai yesterday to take part in a veterans rugby tournament, but he is glad to be “home”, having moved back to Glasgow a few weeks ago.
Since 2010, Parks has been living in Cardiff while playing for the Blues and in Galway when with Connacht and while he had great times in those two places, it is Glasgow where he feels he belongs. That is perhaps not surprising given the success he had in the city as a player, and after hanging up his boots in the summer, the 36-year-old was always keen to return north if he could.
Having had a short stay in the UK with Leeds Tykes in 2001, it was when he returned in 2003 from his native Australia that his professional career took off.
That was when he joined Glasgow Warriors, and over the next seven seasons with the club he would become a fans’ favourite and score over 1,500 points in nearly 150 matches.
His form with the Warriors proved a springboard to the Scotland team, qualifying to wear the thistle through his maternal grandmother, and although he sometimes divided opinion among supporters, there is no doubt he could do things that others could not.
And, after earning 66 caps between 2004 and 2012, his penalty kick that helped Scotland defeat Ireland in the RBS Six Nations in Dublin in 2010 still lives in the memory.
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Before he headed off to Dubai, Parks said: “It is great to be back living in Glasgow. I have managed to reconnect with some of my old team-mates and it has been good seeing supporters out and about in the city.
“I always look back on my time with the Warriors fondly because during that period we really felt like we were building up to something special. Slowly but surely we made inroads in the Celtic League and now it is great to see that the club are consistently up near the top of the table and hopefully they can push on and win the whole thing this year.
“We always knew in Glasgow that there was a real passion for sport in the city and the connection between the team and the supporters has always been great. When I played for the club we used to love home matches because we knew we’d have a really good and vocal support behind us.”
Watching the Warriors class of 2014 this term in his role as a pundit for Sky Sports, Parks has taken delight in seeing how the young players are progressing as a group and learning week on week as well as showing no fear.
“It can take time for young players to adapt to professional rugby, but the current crop at Glasgow seem to have grown up before their time,” Parks said. “They are coming into the side and rather than having to be guided through the match by more senior players, they are really stamping their authority on things and becoming key decision-makers.
“The likes of Finn Russell, Alex Dunbar, Jonny Gray and Adam Ashe have then taken that on to the Scotland side of things and that really bodes well for Gregor Townsend and Vern Cotter in the future.
“It also shows the even younger guys that are around what can be achieved and I am sure they will be taking a lot of pointers from that group and others. It is exciting for Scottish rugby.”
Since he retired at the end of 2013-14 season – after two seasons with Connacht – Parks has kept himself busy. After a short period away from the game to assess what he wanted to do and to recharge the batteries, he has been carrying out a number of coaching sessions at schools while he is enjoying the television work.
“Coaching is something I’d like to do more of, so it has been good to dip my toe in and get involved in recent months,” he explained.
“After being a professional for around 14 years, I felt the break away from the game right after Connacht was the right thing to do because you have to readjust to ‘normal’ life.
“Not many people are lucky enough to play the sport they love for a living and also head to work each day with essentially 40 mates. I was lucky to do that, but now I’m focused on life after playing.”
He says life after playing, but he is still lacing his boots up now and then. Recently he was in Bermuda for the classics event where he was part of the Classic Lions team that lost out 17-3 to the All Blacks in the final and now he is playing for the Charity Sporting Prints Rugby Legends in Dubai on 4-6 December, alongside the likes of former England full-back Iain Balshaw.
Parks stated: “Don’t let anyone fool you, the guys might be older now, but they still play with the same passion. It was a great trip and I guess whetted my appetite a bit more so I am lucky to have this Dubai trip. I hear there are some pretty good teams out there in the tens tournament so we’ll see how it goes.”
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