Brad Parker…tough, loyal, and underrated.
But to his team-mates, he is THE player everyone wants alongside them in the trenches.
Parker might not be a big name centre in the NRL, or the most flashiest, but what he does have is a huge work ethic, spirit, and tremendous courage.
He is, what you call, a true TEAM MAN
Battered and bruised more often than most, Parker doesn’t complain. It’s not in his nature. Just gets up, brushes himself off, and goes again in the only way he knows how…hard and at full capacity.
He knows his role and goes about it to the very best of his ability with each game he plays. One of the best defensive centres in the NRL, Parker can also hit hard too, as evident in this season’s opening round win over the Bulldogs.
It’s why Parker deserves a special mention ahead of his long awaited 100th NRL game at 4 Pines Park against the Parramatta Eels this Thursday night.
A Sea Eagles win would be a fitting reward for a great clubman who goes about his trade with little fanfare, but is very much respected for his professionalism as well as his dry sense of humour and friendly laid back attitude.
A proud local junior who came through the Manly Christian Brothers Club, Parker’s journey is one of hope and inspiration to any young rugby league player on the Northern Beaches with dreams of playing for the Sea Eagles.
“Brad’s story is a fantastic one for the juniors in our area,’’ said Manly Coach, Anthony Seibold.
“It shows you can stay at home on the Northern Beaches and forge a path to first grade for the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles. It's what we want, to be able to forge that pathway.
“One of the strengths of ‘Parks’ is his dependability. His best and worse are very close. He’s a really consistent player.
“I challenged him over the pre-season to compete for his centre spot given the quality amount of depth and talent we have there. Brad showed that through his actions at training."
The Sea Eagles knew early on of the toughness of Parker and his willingness to put his body on the line for the club he grew up supporting.
His NRL debut against the Warriors in Perth in July 2016 saw him mark up against the man nick-named ‘The Beast’, Manu Vatuvei, for his powerful frame and damaging runs.
The Sea Eagles got home 15-14 in driving rain thanks to a left foot field goal in golden point from half-back Daly Cherry-Evans. Naturally, it was the headline act.
But what wasn't forgotten amongst Sea Eagles players and staff that night was how this young red-headed kid with the same colour beard more than once stopped a rampaging ‘beast’ from scoring.
It indeed was a proud moment for his family who made the long trek over to WA for the special moment.
The family, along with plenty of Parker’s mates, will again be out in force on Thursday for the clash against the Eels hoping he can pull out something special in game 100.
“I let my family down last year. They actually booked tickets for my 100th game before the season even started, and then I got injured’’ Parker revealed.
“This time around, I’ve told them to wait until it’s all set in stone. I’ve had a lot of setbacks, too. I obviously had a hard year in 2022, missing most of the season through injury.
“100 games for Manly…it’s been one of my goals for a very long time.”
Ironically, trying to stop Parker from making it a memorable night will be a mate in next door neighbour in Parramatta full-back and captain Clint Gutherson.
It’s a case of ‘Here we go again, Manly and Parra’ for the pair who still live in the same street as Parker’s old primary school.
There, the name ‘Brad Parker’ is scrolled on the sporting honour boards for rugby league achievements.
Cherry-Evans, and Tom and Jake Trbojevic, are the only current team-mates from Parker’s first grade debut who will line up alongside their great mate when he pulls on his beloved maroon and white jersey for the Eels clash.
“I genuinely believe that consistency is one of the hardest things to do as a first grader, and Brad Parker plays consistently well for us,’’ Cherry-Evans said.
Vice-captain Jake Trbojevic was also full of praise for Parker.
“Every game, Brad just gives his all. He leaves nothing in the tank, and as a team-mate, you can’t help but respect that.”
Ninety-nine games, 24 tries, and eight years later, it will be an extra special feeling for Parker when he pulls on the famous maroon and white jersey for his special century.
"Whenever I look at the Sea Eagles emblem on my jersey, I just think about the past players, ’’ Parker added.
“I’ve been here for eight years now and players come and go, whether they have played two or 100 games.
“For me, I just want to leave a strong legacy. To be remembered as a good team-mate.
“That’s all I think about, the guys before me who have dug the well.”
Parker has certainly done that, and more.