The rise of Shannon Parry to Olympic gold medallist and Wallaroos captain is an uplifting story every young girl playing at Easts should know about.
Before either of those lofty achievements she was an uncertain rugby rookie of 17 taking her first strides in a new sport at Easts.
Her lift-off at the Tigers meant far more than winning four straight premierships (2008-09-10-11) in champion sides. She absorbed the lessons of mentors, soaked up what great team spirit was all about, worked hard away from any spotlight and built confidence in her own abilities.
Parry, 32, has been honoured with the Wallaroos captaincy in this Rugby World Cup year, after leading the 2014 and 2017 Cup squads, but has never forgotten where it all began.
“Dad (Glyn) is a Kiwi so rugby was on TV at our house on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays when I was growing up,” Parry explained. “My brother (2013 premiership-winner Josh) was playing at Easts in 2007 and, basically, I was asked to pick him up from the club one night.
“I was only 17 and two of the ladies I was introduced to at the club jokingly said I should come down and play.” Easts rugby stalwarts Selena Tranter and Cheyenne Campbell weren’t just dropping a hint. Tranter said with a smile: “I remember we said to Shanno, ‘Why play hockey, it’s just not the same as rugby?’.” “We probably roped her in begrudgingly to start. There was no comp for girls in 2007 so she trained with us for the best of a season and loved it.”
Parry nodded: “One thing led to another and my brother started taking me to footy trainings. “I wasn’t old enough to play back then. I ran water and the kicking tee and loved every minute at training until I turned 18. I jumped in to play in 2008. “I was really fortunate with the people around Easts. Women like Cheyenne, Selena and other older players nursed me through when I didn’t always know what I was doing in those first few seasons as the youngest in the side. “(Player-coach) Moana Virtue is still a mentor and I’ve mates for life from those days.”
Parry was still just 20 when picked in the backrow for her Wallaroos Test debut against Wales to open the 2010 Rugby World Cup in England.
“Being the youngest rookie meant I had the responsibility to look after Wallamina, our stuffed wallaroo mascot. That just means getting her back from everyone trying to steal her to go on joy trips. Wallamina went on the London Eye, had a swim and had a lipstick of pasta sauce for a while so she had plenty of fun I knew nothing about,” Parry said with a laugh.
Parry’s switch to the Australian Sevens squad literally opened up a new world. Playing rugby on a professional contract and travelling to tournaments around the world all culminated in her frontline role in the gold medal-winning euphoria of the 2016 Rio Olympics. A second Olympics in Tokyo in 2021 was her farewell to sevens.
A break led her back to where it all began. “I went surfing. I relaxed. I rejoined family in Brisbane after years in Sydney and rugby was the furthest thing from my mind for six weeks,” Parry said. The pull of the Tigers was still there. “I actually signed on to be assistant coach for a club sevens tournament last year but found himself pulling on the boots after two sessions,” Parry said. “For me, Easts is where it all began.“I wanted to get away from the professional set-up so to be around Easts and the Queensland girls for Super W has been full of fresh faces and energy. I’ve absolutely loved it.
“There’s something about Easts…everyone says ‘gidday’ even after all my years away, there’s the family aspect and the whole club community is supportive. “I think the big ticket is inclusivity. The women aren’t on the back field anymore in the far corner under the dim lights where you’d lose sight of the ball when a high kick was put up. “We’re on the main field, the lights are on and it’s great to hear that women’s amenities are part of the club’s upgrade plans. “Being able to pass on my experience to the young ones is how others encouraged me as a teenager at Easts. I do enjoy that part of it.”
- * Shannon Parry has been named Wallaroos captain for the Tests against Fijiana at Suncorp Stadium (May 6) and Japan at Bond University (May 10).