And while the lockdown has provided its challenges for many sportspeople, it’s come at the perfect time for Parkes who is returning from a long-injury layoff.
The 22-year old came off a strong tour to San Diego last year with the Black Ferns and she felt like everything was clicking, but a serious injury stopped her in her tracks.
“I am still relatively new to rugby and still trying to get my form. I had been working on stuff all year and that’s when I felt like I finally cracked it. After San Diego we had a couple of weeks break and then I played in my club final. I dislocated my shoulder, popped it out, and as much as it hurt, the thing I was most gutted about was missing the Australian series which was only a week away.”
Parkes is currently eight months post-surgery and she said the timing was actually a blessing in disguise.
“I was pi**ed off about missing that Australia tour, but after that we went straight into off-season, so I had the whole summer to do my rehab and get into running and lifting things. It was a pretty tough year mentally and physically, but this is now around the time that my return to play was supposed to be, so it’s now really valuable for me to get my shoulder right and not rush into it.”
The Marist St Pats loose forward is an accomplished softballer and was on the verge of making the Junior White Sox before she switched to rugby. She is in her final year of study at Massey University, where she is doing a Bachelor of Sport and Exercise. With her training commitments, she’s been able to do her degree via correspondence for her last year and a half.
Parkes’ partner is Hurricanes prop Xavier Numia, so there has been no shortage of training going on over the last six weeks.
“There’s been no time for slacking off. It’s been so good to have a training buddy and we keep each other accountable. We know exactly how to push each other and what our strengths and weaknesses are. Each day we look at each other’s schedule and if we have a similar thing we do the same, but some days I have something I need to work on and he has something he has to work on, but we just train at the same time.
“We were lucky enough to get some gym equipment from Xavier’s training base. We had some bands and weights lying around and we have a rowing machine, as well as the field just down the road from us. We can mix it up and give it some variety, so we aren’t just doing the same thing.”
It’s been a somewhat bizarre start to Parkes’ career. When she started playing rugby in 2018, she was a back. Originally on the wing and then she moved into centre. Everything changed when she was picked for her first Black Ferns camp.
“People were going into the positions and I started moving to the backs and the coach was like no you’re over here, you are a flanker. I was thinking in my head, I don’t even know what that is, I’ve just learnt centre. But I really love my position now and finally learning about it and it’s helped getting the chance to play it at club.”
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With the Black Ferns Test schedule up in the air for 2020, Parkes is hoping to get the chance to feature in the Farah Palmer Cup with the Wellington Pride. It’s a competition she hasn’t really had the chance to play.
“I played club and then pretty much went straight to Black Ferns. I got picked for the first two tours, but didn’t get to play the first year, which was totally fine because I was just learning everything. I didn’t play much Farah Palmer Cup in my first year and when I did play, it was on the wing. So, fingers crossed we get some game time this year.”
Parkes revealed her admiration for Black Ferns skipper Les Elder, who is due to give birth to her first child in just a number of days.
“She is absolute amazing. She’s my idol and she’s everything you want to be. She’s a role model not only on the field, but off it and I have so much to thank her for. She’s taken me under her wing. That’s what is good with the older and more experienced girls in the Black Ferns, is they really love that competition with the younger and newer ones coming through. It’s good because I push her and she pushes me, she shares her knowledge and I ask all the questions. We have a really good relationship.”
And now that Parkes is in a position to be able to play again, whenever rugby returns, a Rugby World Cup on home soil next year is her main motivator.
“That was the other thing with my injury, I had it in my mind that I am still young I have more to give and the Rugby World Cup is a long term goal for me, but it’s coming around really fast. We might not have much rugby this year, so the training now makes it even more important to be ready for our World Cup next year.”