Manly fan favourite Brad Parker will shift to the second row this season — but his preparations copped a major setback during the off-season when he developed sepsis and was forced to spend 12 days in hospital.
The 26-year-old underwent clean-out surgery on his knee in October when disaster struck. He picked up a staph infection, which then developed into something much worse.
Speaking to foxsports.com.au, Parker revealed just how serious his condition was.
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“I was all good and well, then 10 days later I wasn’t feeling that great. I passed out and collapsed, then my roommate came in and took me to hospital. I was in hospital for 12 days,” he said.
“It was (scary). I didn’t know what sepsis was — I had no idea. But my missus knew what was going on so she was a bit worried. I had no idea, I just thought I was sick.”
Sepsis is a serious condition which develops when the body’s immune system has an extreme reaction to infection. Without treatment it can lead to organ failure, tissue damage and even death.
In fact, according to studies approximately 8,000 people die from sepsis-related conditions each year — a confronting statistic Parker quickly learnt.
“It probably wasn’t the best timing but the nurse was trying to tell me how many people have passed away from it while I’m still in the hospital bed,” he said.
Parker reveals transition to back row | 01:07
Parker, who was forced to cancel his holiday to Japan due to the illness, had his knee drained and was treated with antibiotics. But his recovery went well beyond that. After 12 days in hospital he required a walking frame to get moving again.
“At the start I couldn’t really walk. I had one of those frames to walk around that you see an old bloke with,” he laughed.
“I was with the walker for about a week. Because I was in a hospital bed for so long all the muscles went out of my legs… I didn’t have big legs to start with so it’s really hurt my confidence.”
After a “really tough slog” in hospital where he may have gotten a little excited with the morphine button, Parker is finally on his way to making a full recovery.
He explained that pre-season training has been a “slow” process because “it’s about building the steps up again” but he’s edging closer to playing.
“It’s probably not a good start to the season but I’m going really well now — just running by myself and doing lots of rehab,” Parker said.
“I’ve started to come good, but I’m just doing a lot of one-on-one work at the moment and trying to get past all of the pain.
“I haven’t been training with the boys yet but I’m trying to fight to get back for the trials… and hopefully get a ticket to (Round 1 in) Vegas.”
When the local junior does get back onto the field, we’ll see a new version of him. Parker has played 97 of his 107 NRL games in the centres but will transition to the second row to allow Reuben Garrick to shift to centre.
“(Coach Anthony Seibold) wants me to try a role in the back row, which I think I’ve always sort of headed in that direction. As soon as I started losing my speed, it’s the natural progression,” Parker said.
“I’m really excited about it, it’s a new role for me which is good. Just now with what’s happened it’s going to take time to try and build and get a spot.”
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Seibold is flushed with options in the second row. Haumole Olakau’atu almost played himself into a New South Wales jumper last season after some blistering performances on Manly’s right edge, while the likes of Ben Trbojevic, Ethan Bullemor, Karl Lawton and Corey Waddell can all play in the second row too. Then there’s Josh Schuster, who will return to the position after an unsuccessful stint at five-eighth.
Parker welcomes the competition though, declaring: “my main goal is to push for a spot in the starting back row.”
But it’s not going to be an overnight process — especially after a serious injury setback — that’s why Seibold has urged him to be patient with his development.
“It’s kind of hard going from a position I’ve known for so long, it’s kind of starting all over again. So he (Seibold) is pushing me to not get frustrated and just think of taking baby steps,” Parker said.
“I can’t just go to starting in the back row and then playing amazing straight away. He’s pushing me to really focus on working on the little things and not get frustrated because I can get quite frustrated at times.”
Parker does know all about patience though. After all, it did take him seven years to reach his 100th NRL game milestone.
“That was a bit of a grind. I probably should’ve played that game a year ago but I did my ACL,” he said.
When the special occasion did finally arrive — Round 3 last season at 4 Pines Park — the club made sure the Manly Christian Brothers product felt the love. He was celebrated by his teammates and coaching staff in the lead-up to the Thursday night game and even crossed for a try in the 34-30 win over the Eels.
“When I played my 50th game, I set that goal to play my 100th and told everyone I’m going to have a big party. It just took so long for me to get there so when I finally got there it was such a relief,” Parker reflected.
“That was actually one of the most nerve-racking games I’ve ever had because I had a group of 40 family members and friends come and watch.”
Broncos react to Reynolds injury scare | 00:46
Despite some bumps, bruises and hurdles along the way, Parker wouldn’t change his journey because it has “100 per cent” helped him become the player he is today — a tough competitor, a workhorse and the ultimate clubman.
It was those exact qualities that earnt him a contract extension that will keep him at the Sea Eagles until the end of 2025.
“The thing I like about Brad is his toughness and his consistency,’’ Seibold said when Parker’s new deal was announced last September.
“The way he plays, he is the best advertisement for that Manly mentality we talk about.
Although Parker did receive interest from rival clubs, it was a pretty easy decision for him to commit to the team he grew up supporting.
“There were other offers that were handy — I won’t say who — but Manly’s home for me,” he said.
“I live five minutes down the road, my family is here and all my mates are here. I love this team so it’s going to take a lot of convincing for me to go somewhere else.”
When asked if he’d like to finish his career as a Sea Eagle, Parker said: “Yeah definitely.”
“There’s always a chance of travelling when I get to the back end of my career, going overseas or something like that, but for my NRL career I’d like to finish it off here,” he added.
Source website: www.foxsports.com.au