“IF YOU stick at it and take a few risks along the journey, you should get there.”
When summing up what he learnt from 2020, that’s what Luke Parks had to say.
Parks’ journey to Carlton has already had plenty of twists and turns, with the Sydneysider arriving at Ikon Park via Adelaide.
While the last week has been a period of transition for the defender, Parks has been no stranger to it, packing his bags and setting up shop as he tested himself for Glenelg in the SANFL.
Put simply, he didn’t want to be kept waiting.
“It was the disappointment of playing all of those years in Sydney and not getting a chance,” Parks said.
“I heard that the SANFL was the second best competition in Australia to the AFL and I had a few people recommend it to me. Glenelg reached out to me and gave me the opportunity to play: I thought I’d jump on it and expand instead of playing in Sydney again.”
What a year it turned out to be for Parks, who played every game for Glenelg despite coming into a team which were the reigning premiers in his first year of top-age football.
While the Parks family admitted that fortune fell in his favour given South Australia’s season going ahead, it was a case of the new Blue making his own luck.
Knowing he had done everything possible to put himself in AFL calculations, Parks faced the familiar feeling of being overlooked after the 2020 NAB AFL Draft went by without his name called.
“I was watching the national draft the night before and it just went to pick No.59 and no more. I was pretty disappointed and thinking about next year, about what I was supposed to do and how I could get another crack,” Parks said.
“I was at work the next morning and I kept refreshing my phone to see what was going on: it got to about pick No.5, and I had to go on lunch for work.”
It was the perfect timing for Parks, who arrived at Carlton just minutes later after being selected with pick No.8 in the 2021 NAB AFL Rookie Draft.
He said that his move to the Navy Blues very much came “out of the blue”, with the Blues’ list management team holding their cards close to their chest.
“I was pretty disappointing thinking ‘here we go again’ and then Mick [Agresta] called me and I was just ecstatic. I was over the moon: I went all shivery.
“It was just awesome.”
Parks spoke from Ikon Park in the ensuing days after having his dream realised, with the rookie having a week at the old Carlton ground to become acclimatised before his 2021 campaign.
He credited the calming influence of the Senior Coach in ironing out the opening day nerves.
“It was a bit nervy at the start, us boys walking in to our new home and not knowing what to expect,” Parks said.
“Everybody was just really kind and ‘Teaguey’ gave us a little rundown, telling us to enjoy it and if we make a mistake, just pick it back up and they’re not expecting anything crazy: just ‘do your thing’ and keep asking why we’re doing something.”