No walk in the Parks: How new Blue Luke did it the hard way

Luke Parks will make his debut for Carlton on Sunday. Image Source: carltonfc.com.au

Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard. That’s the mantra of any local or second-tier competition-playing footballer willing to do anything for their shot in the big time.

It’s no different for any mature age footballer who has been drafted out of the state leagues recently like Luke Parks, who will make his debut for Carlton this weekend in the Blues’ crunch game against Fremantle.

Hailing from St Ives Football Club in the northern suburbs of Sydney, Parks was a member of the Sydney Swans academy before going unselected at draft night. Rather than get comfortable back in New South Wales, Parks moved over to South Australia to further develop his football and push his case at an AFL dream.

Glenelg was able to secure his services for the 2020 SANFL season, where he impressed over the COVID impacted season. Parks managed to play all 15 games (including 1 final) for the Tigers, averaging 12.1 disposals per game across half-back, excelling in his intercept marking and ability to rebound and distribute out of defence.

Head of list management and strategy Nick Austin said when they recruited Parks via pick 8 in the rookie draft, the Blues were looking to add to their defensive depth in the offseason and were impressed with Luke’s effort and desire to reach the top level.

“What we loved about Luke is how driven he was to reach the elite level. He decided that moving states to South Australia would be the best thing for his footy, which is a sign of his commitment to his craft and the proof is there for all to see now.” Austin told Carlton Media after the Rookie Draft.

“He’s got elite hands and he’s a really good reader of the play. He played every game for Glenelg this year in a pretty good team and it’s easy to forget that he’s just 19 years of age with a lot of room to grow.”

General manager of football operations at Glenelg, Paul Sandercock praised Parks’ attitude and commitment to his cause.

“He came over knowing that he wanted to play AFL footy. He just settled in exceptionally well, a very quiet unassuming laid back guy but very popular amongst the playing group,” Sandercock told The Inner Sanctum.

“Mark Stone, our coach last year was really terrific for him, giving him every opportunity to play senior footy and show us what he had and he really couldn’t have played any better really. I think he finished in the top 4 or 5 in our best and fairest.”

Sandercock hailed his commitment to his craft and style of footy as his greatest strengths and the reasons and to why he thinks he got drafted and is now getting his chance at the highest level.

“He was willing to crash packs, jump at the ball, the way he played really endeared himself to his teammates.

“He’s really athletic. Once the ball hits the ground, he’s really big on his second and third efforts, and I think his ability to read the play and the flight of the ball in the air. He jumps at the right time, spoils when he needs to, marks when he needs to.

“i think he brings a lot of skillsets to AFL footy (and) for a kid who left home for the first time and re-located, he probably couldn’t have done any better to be honest.”

Coming across to Carlton with defensive pillars already firmly in place, Parks knew that breaking into the seniors was always a steep challenge. But with a leaky start to the year for the Blues and strong form on both the training track and practice matches, the hunger and hard work has bred opportunity in the senior side.

While Parks did the bulk of his development in New South Wales, Sandercock was overjoyed in helping provide Luke the environment where he can launch into his own AFL career.

“We probably can’t take too much ownership of Luke as he did most of his development in New South Wales but were certainly pleased that we were able to give him that environment and opportunity here at SANFL level to go onto bigger and better things,” he said

” Lets hope this is the first game of many for him. He Deserves it, he’s a ripping kid.”

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