New rugby league boss brings diverse skills to vital role
RUGBY LEAGUE: He loves an occasional punt, enjoys social golf and knows regional Queensland well through his work.
However, it's rugby league that most excites incoming Rugby League Ipswich (RLI) chairman Gary Parker.
Having fulfilled a variety of footy roles in a number of centres, he welcomes the opportunity to work with others to enhance the sport in Ipswich.
"I love the game,'' said Parker, who turns 59 in February. "I've always been involved in it.
"I've been involved in a lot of sports but rugby league is probably the one I've enjoyed the most and I continue to foster that.
"We do call it the greatest game of all and it is.
"But these days we are under immense pressure, competition wise.
"Soccer, or football as they call it now, has taken over a fair bit and union is a direct competitor of us and AFL, their various programs have got very popular too.''
Parker said as a first-time chairman, he embraces the chance to grow rugby league in the region.
"(Being) president of Goodna and Springfield had its challenges, especially Goodna, and moving into this, I just see this as another step in my progression,'' he said.
"I'll probably retire from the workforce the year after next so if I can continue in a role, it will great. I'll be able to put a lot more effort into it.''
Maryborough-born Parker was a front row/second rower through high school before playing A-Grade in the Wide Bay region.
Working as a senior operations regional Queensland manager for long distance travel with Queensland Rail, he transferred out west, before stints in Townsville and down the coast, before settling in Toowoomba where he worked with Valleys.
He eventually moved into the Brisbane area.
When his first son Ty was born in 1994, he moved to Walloon.
As Ty started playing, Parker helped out at various clubs like Rosewood.
He later continued his volunteer work at Springfield, taking over as president in 2004.
After running the club's junior and senior programs, he followed Ty to Goodna.
He ended up president at the Goodna club for eight years before spending two years as a volunteer at various locations.
"I was just helping out generally with clubs because that's why I do,'' he said.
Parker's whole family is involved in rugby league.
His wife Tricia was a trainer for Springfield, Goodna, Fassifern, Ipswich Rugby League and junior representative sides.
She was twice named trainer of the year in the Ipswich awards.
Their son Ty is looking to play in 2019 after previous stints with Goodna and Fassifern.
After an opportunity to apply for the RLI board came up last year, Garry filled a vacant position.
He was recently elected chairman after a vote by the current board members.
Other members of the RLI board are former chairman David Nugent, Anthony Breeze and David Martin.
An independent position is to be filled in the new year.
"I've already been to an SEQ board meeting so I've seen how the place operates and I'm positive that we can keep moving forward,'' Goodna-based Parker said.
Apart from dealing with the threat of other sports, Parker wants to strengthen the city's rugby league network.
"I see I'm here to try and lead and guide the clubs,'' he said.
"The future of the rugby league here is in the clubs' hands really.
"I'll get out there, talk to the clubs and see what we can do to help.
"Throw the helping arm out there. That's not necessarily financially but good administration.
"I've got a huge background in risk management and governance so it will be nice to see if we can drive a bit of governance in clubs. I'm not saying they are not but they probably could increase their level.
"And people don't realise the value of that.
"I'll just go out there and try to spread the word and keep on being positive about what we are going to do with rugby league in Ipswich and the surrounding areas.
"It's a big family out there and it's going to have its challenges.''