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'You almost sound bitter': Pari Pari Parkinson on injuries and All Blacks

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Teaukura Moetaua/Getty Images)

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Pari Pari Parkinson is hoping to be back in action sooner than expected after suffering a major injury in the late stages of this year’s NPC.

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The Highlanders and Tasman lock copped some friendly fire in the final round of the regular season, with flanker Anton Segner colliding with Parkinson’s leg in a tackle and leaving the towering second-rower in serious discomfort on the floor.

“Anton swung round the tackle on Pete [Umaga-Jensen] and when he hit my knee, I felt everything crunch and I looked down and I could see my leg sticking out from underneath his body and though ‘Na, that’s no good’,” Parkinson told former Highlanders utility back James Marshall on the latest episode of his What A Lad podcast.

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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.
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The panel of Ross Karl, Bryn Hall and James Parsons run their eyes over all the developments from the past week of rugby.

“I was trying to tell doc but all that came out was [noises]. Nothing you could do anything with.”

Almost immediately, Parkinson knew he wasn’t likely to be back on the park anytime soon, with the lumbering 25-year-old unable to walk off the field without support.

“I tried to put my weight on [some support staff] to walk off, because I knew everything was gone [after] I saw my foot out on an angle. The doc and stuff were just like ‘Mate, you can’t put your body weight on us, we can’t carry you.’

“After I got up, I didn’t want to lie back down [and ask for the stretcher] … Too much pride, can’t let my ego be damaged.”

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Once off the field and into the hospital, the diagnosis was grim.

“All the ligaments [were damaged], the ACL, PCL, MCL, damaged the meniscus,” said Parkinson. “[The doctor] ran me through all that. I’ll be honest, I wasn’t doing much listening, I was kind of like ‘I know it’s bad, I know you can fix it, I’ve got faith in you, you do your thing’.

“Went into day surgery and then woke up and it was all new. I was still on morphine though so I started being a hero … I thought I was the man walking around on my leg right after my surgery and the nurses were like ‘No, don’t do that, get back in the bed, you clown’.”

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While the initial prognosis was grim, Parkinson is hopeful that he can’t fast-track his way back onto the pitch in time for next year’s NPC season, which will likely kick off around September.

“[The surgeon] told me about 12 months and I was like ‘There’s no chance, I’m not doing that, I’m not taking 12 months, that’s just silly’. I’m hoping nine; hopefully, I’ll be back for next Tassie season, fingers crossed.”

The multi-ligament rupture is the latest in a long line of serious injuries that Parkinson has endured in his professional career to date, with a serious foot injury keeping him out of much of the 2020 and 2021 seasons.

Many have touted the 2.04m, 130kg lock as a future All Black but the ongoing injuries have thwarted Parkinson’s chances and putting together a long run of matches in order to impress the selectors.

Parkinson revealed that although he’s had minimal communication from the All Blacks, he was told this year to prepare in case he was called in for the end-of-year tour late in the season.

“There wasn’t really any comms. They told me to get vaccinated, just in case. I don’t know how close, they were more just like ‘There’s a chance’. Probably just did it [to get me vaccinated]. Other than that, there wasn’t much comms and I didn’t expect there would be because I haven’t had comms previously.

“It’s a weird topic to talk about because you almost sound bitter when you address it. It’s always been my mindset since I was about 16: unless it’s right in front of you, don’t worry about it. Because I can’t control what the selectors do, to pick me, so it’s like why worry about a team I’m not in? That’s sort of the way I go about it … It’s not something that’s on my plate at the moment.”

While Parkinson’s latest injury is another setback, he’s confident he can get himself back into top shape next year.

“I’ve done this before, a long rehab process, and I learnt from the last one so I can take those learnings into this one,” he said. “Granted, this is probably a bit more serious of an injury but at least now I know what the do’s and don’ts are.’

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