Dan Parks, who plays club rugby for RaboDirect Pro12 side, Cardiff Blues, said in the announcement published on the SRU website, that he had been thinking of following the example of Chris Paterson and retiring from the International rugby after the 2011 World Cup, however the injury to Scotland’s second fly half, Ruaridh Jackson delayed the announcement.
Australian by birth, Parks qualified to play for Scotland through his maternal grandfather. In February 2004 he made his international debut for the side against Wales, and soon cemented his place as the first choice fly half for the national side. From this impressive start, the fly half went from strength to strength earning praise for his performances on the pitch, as well as his manner and behaviour off of the pitch. He became a key part of the Scotland set up during the 2005 autumn internationals and the following 6nations campaigns.
Such an auspicious career was overshadowed however in 2009, when he was stopped by police between Glasgow and Edinburgh and found to be three times over the legal drink drive limit. It coincided with several poor performances for the national side, and he was subsequently dropped from the squad.
This marked the start of an eighteen month absence from the international scene, until Andy Robinson selected him in the 2010 Six Nations squad, and he exploded back into national rugby with several impressive performances, including the last minute kick to beat Ireland at Croke Park, and earning three MOTM accolades in four matches.
This comeback continued throughout the 2010 autumn internationals, in which Dan Parks contributed all of the points in Scotland’s victory over the then world champions South Africa, his impressive kicking range landing 6 penalties and a drop goal. He travelled with Scotland to two world cups, 2007 and 2011, has scored 266 points for them. He has been featured in many pundit’s and writers’ “teams of the tournament” as well as winning “player of the tournaments” awards as chosen by the fans.
In recent months he has faced stiff competition from Glasgow Warriors fly half Ruaridh Jackson for the Scotland number 10 shirt, a battle that was also played out at club level. And it was the injury to Jackson, he says, that delayed his retirement, not to mention the chance to settle the score against the Auld Enemy in the Six Nations.
The impressive international record also carries over into his club career. In 2003, he returned to the United Kingdom, after spending a few years in Australia, playing for Sydney based side Eastern Suburbs. Parks joined Scottish side Glasgow Warriors, and you can read match report after match report that demonstrates his skill and dedication at playing for the club. In the 7 seasons that he was with the Rabo side, he was always their first choice fly half and is their all time top points scorer.
Following the axing from the Scotland squad, he was asked by Warriors to train alone whilst they decided upon his future with them. In the end head coach Sean Lineen made the decision to stick by him and give him a second chance. No doubt this contributed to his loyalty to the club.
Whilst playing for Glasgow Warriors Dan Parks became a popular player with the fans, several times winning fan accolades including “player of the season” twice. He also scored his 1000th Rabo point there, and holds a record of 143 appearances for the club.
In September 2010 he made his debut for Welsh side Cardiff Blues, in their Magners League game against Edinburgh. This debut followed the same pattern as his other debuts: solid and exciting, he has continued in the same vein at the Blues since then. The contract that saw Parks move down to Wales was a two-year deal, and in the announcement made today Parks hinted at a possible return to Glasgow Warriors saying “I always enjoyed my time in Glasgow. It’s one of the great cities I’ve visited, so who knows what will happen in the future.”
In the announcement Andy Robinson spoke highly of Parks, admitting that he was not in his first squads, but that Parks fought for his place in the national team demonstrating his skill and resilience. Robinson also thanked him for the contribution Parks has made to the Scotland team throughout his 8year career.
Other players from the Scotland squad have also expressed their sadness at Parks’ retirement, saying that he was a great man to play alongside, and an even better man off the field; always positive and friendly. Others have praised Dan Parks for his kicking skill and range, crediting him with helping Scotland to some big victories, including winning their first test series in Argentina in the summer of 2010.
Kicking range and skill aside, Parks has come under heavy criticism in his career for his playing style and tactical decisions: using the World Cup pool game against Argentina as an example, he made the decision to go for a drop goal despite Scotland being close to the try line. Others feel that perhaps this is the right time for Parks to hang up his international boots, and allow the younger players the chance to stake their claim on the stand off spot for the national team.
I took to Twitter to get the fans reactions to the news. There were very mixed opinions but shock and surprise was universal:
“So glad! AR now has no option but to try Weir or Laidlaw from the start. (Though, ohgodman is still there.. eek)” from @rawxing
“WOW. Unexpected.” From @roshd63
“Real shame. He worked hard for Scotland. Just was never really given the recognition. Always a scape goat” from @bossco88
“Think it’s a bit sad, but im happy. Shame for him to end like that but we have to give youth a chance” from @snitch9
“Sad that Dan bows out this way. Best wishes to Dan and thanks for some brilliant memories GlasgowWarriors and Scotlandteam” from @drivingdoc
“Mixed feelings. A lot of the criticism he got was unwarranted & undeserved & never gave less than his best.” From @neil_macdougall
“Great player, sad to see him go this way. Feel privileged to have watched him play so many times. Particularly to have been at Croke Park in 2010 when he had 2 perfect kicks to win and then convert the winning penalty. :D” from @craigchalmers
“I think that game at Croker was probably his finest hour, glad to have seen it.” From @Scotrugbyblog
“I feel for him, but it might be the best thing to let younger players through” from @MissilePanda
Whatever your opinions on Dan Parks, he has enjoyed a varied and strong international career. But maybe the timing is right for him to leave the international arena, with players like Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw and Duncan Weir waiting eagerly for their chances, and many fans calling for the younger element of the Scotland team to be given them, how much longer would Parks have held on?
One thing is certain however, he contributed a great deal to Scottish rugby and whoever does replace him will have some very big boots to fill.