League identity awarded OAM for 45-year 'labour of love'
RUGBY LEAGUE: Steve's Parle's 45-year "labour of love” has earned him one of the country's top honours.
The former Rockhampton teacher has received an Order of Australia Medal in the Queen's Birthday Honours List for his service to rugby league coaching and recruitment.
Now the player welfare officer at the Brisbane Broncos, Parle spent close to 43 years moulding Rockhampton's young talent into better rugby league players and, more importantly to him, better individuals.
He said he was a little overwhelmed when he learned last week that he would be afforded the honour. "It's something you never think of. You don't go out to get accolades like this,” he said.
"It's something I've done for 45 years but rugby league has been a labour of love for me. It wasn't a chore or something that I was forced to do, it's just something that I love doing.
"When you see the other recipients and read about what they've been involved in, I'm extremely proud to receive this award and it's certainly a big surprise.”
Parle received a letter more than six months ago to say he had been nominated for an OAM.
"I really didn't give it any more thought because I thought there would be a million more applicants better than me,” the highly regarded league identity said.
"I was shocked when I got a letter last week to tell me I'd been successful.”
Parle could never have known just how big an influence rugby league would have on his life when he arrived in Rockhampton in 1970 as an Aussie rules loving teenager.
It would become his passion, ultimately shape his career path as a teacher and provide an introduction to his wife of 39 years, Regina Donnely.
Parle was "pretty cranky” when he realised Aussie rules was not a sporting option in his new home town, and he recalls his late dad telling him to stop whingeing and give rugby league a go.
John Meehan from Brothers Rugby League Club extended the invitation and within three weeks of training Parle was playing his first game and within 18 months he was coaching his first team.
That was an under-13 side which included nippy little halfback Tim Donnely, whose sister Regina would always come along to support.
Parle quickly developed as a coach and the idea of mentoring and helping youngsters grow and develop guided him into a teaching career.
He started teaching at St Joseph's Christian Brothers College (now The Cathedral College) and was there until his move to Brisbane in 2015.
"I think my teaching background in the latter years made coaching a lot easier in the sense that coaching is really about building relationships and also communication and they're things teachers are good at,” he said.
"You're never going to get the best out of players if you don't have the relationship with them.
"It's about building that relationship and then developing the communication.
"You need to be honest and have the tough conversations when you have to. They're better players for that; if you're sugar coating everything it doesn't really help anyone.”
Parle has coached a number of players who have gone on to the NRL, including Julian O'Neill, Rhys Wesser, Ben Barba, Tim Glasby and current Maroons halfback Ben Hunt.
"Central Queensland has produced some great players and I was lucky enough to be just a small part of their careers.
"It's a great nursery for rugby league talent.
"People call it heartland and it is. It's rugby league central as far as I'm concerned.
"I enjoyed playing but I certainly got more satisfaction as a coach. When you're coaching you've got a lot more invested in every player.
"I've never been big on rousing speeches. My motto was simply to look after your own game and if each player does that then the sum total of the 17 players will produce a good result.
"I don't know how many hundreds or thousands of people I've coached over the years but I truly believe I've got more out of coaching than I ever put in.”
STEVE PARLE'S CAREER HIGHLIGHTS
- Brisbane Broncos player welfare officer since 2015
- Australian Secondary Schoolboys Board of Control for 22 years
- Queensland Secondary Schools Rugby League president 1994-2015, and life member
- Rockhampton District Secondary Schools Rugby League president 1982-2014, and life member
- Brothers Rockhampton Rugby League Club player for 14 years, committee member for 30 years, volunteer for more than 40 years
- Browne Park Trust member 2000-2015, and life member