Dan Parks' eyes on the prize as he prepares for a fond farewell

GLASGOW'S fight for recognition among the elite in the Magners League and Europe has rarely made it to this part of the season, or crumbled in defeats in games they should have won, but the new-found desire that has brought them to the cusp of a play-off place is perfectly illustrated by the man preparing to make what could be his final appearance in a Glasgow jersey at Firhill.

Dan Parks heads south to Cardiff next season after seven years in Scotland, a short trial with Leeds having failed to bring about a Guinness Premiership opportunity that the Australian first sought as his route into the British game. Glasgow and Parks have proven to be an extremely good fit since then, the 31-year-old stand-off bringing direction to a side that, typical of Scottish teams, liked to move the ball and play ambitious rugby but lacked the pragmatism necessary to be consistent.

Parks and Glasgow have endured hardship together and learned and grown together, and as Glasgow have reached new heights this season, so his ability to control games with the boot when on the front foot has revived his international career.

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As he prepares for what could be a Firhill swansong, and to break the 1,500 points record – he has scored 1,499 for Glasgow to date – he paid tribute to the Glasgow crowd for helping through the tougher periods when he struggled to replicate his form on the Test stage.

"I haven't thought a great deal about it (last game at Firhill]," he insisted. "We realise that if we win the next two games there is an option of getting a home semi-final, and that's all about winning this first game.

"But if it does turn out to be my last game, well I'll have a lot of fond memories of Firhill with Glasgow; fantastic crowd support I've had the whole time I've been at Firhill and at Hughenden, and that's certainly something I'll miss next year.

"Any time you win is always a great memory. Far and away the best memories have been the Edinburgh matches over the years. Certainly, I look back at the 2008 game where I scored all the points that night. It was pleasing for me off the back of a disappointing game (for Scotland] against Italy two weeks previous. To come out and play well against Edinburgh was a big one.

"And this year again we beat Edinburgh here and I broke the 1000-point mark, which was a goal of mine this year, and to do it in front of a home crowd against Edinburgh was very pleasing.

"There have been many fond memories at Firhill, and Hughenden as well, but in the end they're down to the great players I've played with, the nice guys that have been involved here at the club and the great fans who always embraced me and got behind me when possibly others haven't.

"This is an opportunity for me to thank them because they have been fantastic. Something I'll never forget is going out on that pitch, and even just hearing your name being called out before the game and you get that cheer and buzz from the crowd.

"I certainly get that and I'm sure other players get that as well and it does give you a definite lift. And when you kick goals and do good things in the game and get that response, it does lift you and has made me feel very at home here at Glasgow.

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"So I'm looking forward to finishing off the regular season on a high with the guys. We need to win to keep our hopes alive of making the play-offs and everything's geared to that. As a player you never want to go out as a loser and so if this is to be my last game at Firhill, I want it to be a winning one."

Chris Cusiter is back from injury to partner Parks at half-back, Hefin O'Hare comes in for the injured DTH van der Merwe on the wing, and teenage stand-off Duncan Weir steps on to the bench to begin his push for the No.10 jersey Parks will leave behind.

Parks likes the look of Weir and believes the quality in the current Glasgow squad is better than at any time in the past seven years. He points also to a greater maturity with that being the keys to why the team has become more consistent. But he acknowledges also that the play-off system has injected a new excitement and opportunity to a period of the season that would otherwise have held little great attraction, Leinster still being odds-on to finish top even if they lose tonight.

Tonight, the clear focus at Firhill is on giving Leinster a double headache, the Irishmen having picked their first-choice side to secure top spot in the league at Connacht on Wednesday night and a reserve team for the Scottish trip, only to come unstuck in Galway in a 20-point loss.

Glasgow could seal their play-off spot with victory tonight depending on other results over the weekend, but mathematically could win and miss out on the top four next month. A top-two spot and home semi-final is also still possible, but will probably require two bonus-point wins and both Ospreys and Munster – who meet tomorrow night – to fail to match that in their final games.

Therefore, Parks is one of several senior players working hard on the mantra that the team has achieved nothing yet and, while he believes the team is more capable of success than any he has played in, any swansong sentimentality comes a distinct second to a winning performance tonight.

"There's no denying that this is the strongest squad we've had at Glasgow," he said. "I started many years ago now and in the past you would say that we didn't have the killer instinct and toughness that we needed, but in the past couple of years we've brought that out.

"It would be fantastic for the club if we were to get there (to the final] and win it, but Leinster have a very strong squad and this will be a tricky match."