Anthony Joseph Parker
Born Brisbane, 12 April 1961
Australia (3 Tests)
Anthony Joseph Parker was an unwavering, spirited halfback, who played against many international sides as a Queensland representative and against Argentina and New Zealand as a Wallaby. Parker was a brilliant, skilful and determined player who faced up to the toughest of international teams during his rugby career.
Parker played 55 games for Terrace between 1973 and 1977 and eight of those were in the First XV. In 1977, Parker played in the Premiership winning First XV. It was a momentous season for Terrace and the 1977 school annual summed up the excitement of breaking a twenty-one year premiership drought,
1977 was a truly great year in the history of Terrace’s Rugby history. This year’s 1st XV’s team, coached by Mr Lester Hampson and captained by Mark Moore combined brilliant attacking flair, well drilled Rugby techniques and dogged, resolute defence to win our first premiership for twenty one years and become our only undefeated team since 1929.
Parker played extremely well in all games. His ‘scintillating blind side bursts’ against Churchie and excellent performance against Brisbane Grammar, underlined his obvious talents to the selectors. He was then selected to play for the Queensland under-19s in 1979-80, and toured Japan with Australian Universities in 1981.
Parker joined University from 1981 to 1984 and, incredibly, was selected for the Queensland side before he had played a senior game for the club. Parker debuted for Queensland against Sydney in 1981 and his selection was based on his excellent form for the Queensland under-19s and the Australian Universities side. The season was full of promise for Queensland, with an impressive team including newcomers Michael O’Connor, Chris Carberry and a fiercely determined Parker all debuting for Queensland in the match and then chosen to tour New Zealand with Queensland. On tour, Queensland won two very tough games against Southland and Otago, but went down to Otago Sub-Unions mid-week.
Prior to Parker’s selection as a Wallaby, he gained vast experience against international sides as a Queensland representative. Parker was selected to play for Queensland when they faced France in their first game at Ballymore on 14 June 1981. Terrace boy Tony Shaw was captain and although losing 18-15, Queensland played brilliantly. The French captain, Jean-Pierre Rives, was very impressed by the Queenslanders game saying;
We like your style, what a great team, and such spirit. The Test matches will be of the highest standard . . . Compared to you the Five Nations matches are pleasure games.’
The game delivered up front dazzling movement, fierceness and pressure rarely experienced outside test matches, according to Frank O’Callaghan. A tight game, there were never more than six points between the two teams. The crowd erupted in the dying minutes of the match with the chant of ‘Red, Red, Red’. French skipper, Jean Pierre Rives likened the pressure and tension of the match to a bull fight;
It was like a bull fight out there. We had to wait for the bull to become tired and that took a long time. Such pressure.
Queensland finished their 1981 representative season with a devastating 68-11 win over Italy at Ballymore on 2 August. Not since 1977 had Queensland inflicted such humiliation on a visiting side. The Italians were completely out of their depth for the only time on the tour. The Maroons had complete domination.
Described as ‘rugby union giantkillers’, the Queensland side defeated Scotland 18-7 before the biggest crowd of the season, 17,000. Queensland had to work hard against a determined Scottish team, but were too strong in the second half.
In 1983 a team from the United States of America toured Australia. A country relatively new to the world of rugby, the tour was organized as a learning experience for the team and with each game they grew stronger as a unit. Parker played in the Queensland side against the Eagles on 3 July at Ballymore. The US fielded a near Test side but Queensland also fielded 15 very strong players who would eventually play for the Wallabies. A crowd of 14,000 witnessed a very entertaining match and were surprised by the furious forward play of the Eagles. Queensland won 14-10 against the Eagles and Parker would be chosen as a reserve along with Lynagh, Hanely and Shaw for the Test match against the Eagles.
Parker debuted for the Wallabies at age 22 against Argentina a few weeks later on their first visit to Australia. The tour was very successful and the Pumas took Australia by surprise. Parker represented both Queensland and Australia against the Pumas playing in both Test matches. Queensland faced the Pumas on 24 July 1983 and a crowd of 15,000 witnessed an action-packed struggle between the two sides. Queensland played well and led at half time 16-15. The Pumas, however, went on a scoring spree in the second half, taking the final score to 34-28.
Australia was found wanting in the first Test match against Argentina in Brisbane losing 18-3. The Australians had no answer to the Argentineans ‘bajada’. The ‘bajada’, was an Argentine scrum ploy, that consisted of a violent eight-man shove, where weight, timing and an angled front-row combined to provide an ensemble of power that crushed Australia’s ability to lift their feet. Huge gouges were dug in the turf at Ballymore as the Wallabies were forced back time and again. The power and technique in the scrums was something the Australians had not come up against with any other team. Simon Poidevin in For Love not Money said that in his 50-odd Tests he had never experienced such a destructive opposing scrum. The Pumas dominated, not only controlling the scrums but out-jumping the Wallabies in the line-outs. Parker made his international debut against the might of the Argentineans, coming on for an injured Dominic Vaughan.
After their first Test loss to the Pumas in Brisbane, the Wallabies were determined to rescue the series with a win. Coach Bob Dwyer set about to rectify the Wallabies’ problems with the ‘bajada’ in the first Test. Dwyer was not intimidated by the Argentineans and couldn’t see what the fuss was all about saying, ‘we are as big and as strong as they are. There is no way we can’t do better’. Changes were made to the team and Parker held his position as halfback for the second Test. Former Wallaby prop, John Griffiths was brought in for advice, which paid off in solid Australian scrums that broke the Argentineans and delivered a win to the Wallabies 29-13. The Wallabies did not surrender a centimeter of turf to the Pumas and Coach Dwyer was very happy with the superb team effort with 15 guys determined to win.
A great deal of hype surrounded the one-off Test between New Zealand and the Wallabies. The Sydney press had billed it as the ‘Test of the century’. Parker was selected as halfback and the 15 selected had all played against Argentina a fortnight earlier. Coach Bob Dwyer scheduled ‘secret’ training sessions and the All Blacks were very cautious about their meals after receiving food poisoning prior to a Test three years earlier at the same hotel. Some players said they would eat away from the hotel.
Prior to this Test, Parker would play for Queensland against the All Blacks on 13 August. A raging All Black team avenged the result of their last match against Queensland with a devastating 39-12 win at Ballymore. Frank O’Callaghan felt the boys were too slow to get going and were out-scrummed, out-rucked, out-mauled and out-muscled by a strong All Black side.
Perfect weather and 44,100 spectators witnessed the Wallabies go down 18-8 to the All Blacks on 21 August. Although scoring two tries to the All Blacks’ one, Australia’s kicking let them down. New Zealand landed four penalties while Australia missed four. The Wallabies failed with every goal attempt but could stand with pride, according to Jim Webster, as they played with tremendous zest and perseverance.
Parker’s final representative games for Queensland in 1984 were against Fiji and New Zealand. Unfortunately both games were losses but the Queensland side did not disgrace itself. Parker missed out on selection for the 1984 Wallaby tour to Britain to Phillip Cox and Nick Farr-Jones.
Tony Parker was a speedy halfback who played against extremely tough international sides during his Test and State representative career. Dr Parker is now an Ears, Nose, Throat Specialist on Wickham Terrace.
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Courier Mail (Brisbane)
The Sun-Herald (Sydney)
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The Times (London)