Parling felt time was right to step into coaching
For new Melbourne Rebels forwards coach Geoff Parling, the desire to one day step away from the playing arena and mentor players as a coach has always been traceable over his 16-year career.
While Parling carved a name for himself as a consistent lock over his illustrious career which has included 279 top flight professional rugby games, 29 international caps for England and three appearances for the British and Irish Lions, transitioning to an off-field role has increasingly been on the Englishman’s mind.
After earning 11 appearances with the Rebels, an offseason stint in Japan punctuated with injury convinced Parling that the time was right to move into coaching.
“Dave spoke to me and we had a few conversations because I always knew it was something I wanted to get into,” Parling said.
“My body was busted anyway, my shoulder was no good so I thought it was about time to get into coaching.”
“A part of me would have liked to have kept playing, but it was the right time to move on.”
Parling hopes he can use his vast international experience to help guide the Rebels’ exciting forward pack into the 2019 Super Rugby season.
One experience which Parling will look to draw from and utilise to help the Rebels’ squad is the time he spent at the internationally regarded Leicester Tigers.
Parling recounts the forwards training sessions at Leicester as one of the most important facets of his development as a lock and something which he can use as a blueprint to instil in the club’s forward pack.
“Just being in the environment at Leicester was a very important move for me,” Parling said.
“I moved there when I was 25, I craved a real winning environment and I don’t think you would’ve had a tougher environment in the world.
“It was brutally honest and very tough; the forward sessions were known to be very lively and I absolutely loved it,” explained Parling.
Another aspect which Parling wants to instil as a coach is the attitude of going into every game with a winning mentality.
It was a part of his time at Leicester which Parling valued dearly and helped shape the club into one of Europe’s most well performed teams.
Parling says the emphasis the Tigers’ coaches put on coming away with a positive result through hard work was one of the key lessons he learnt throughout his career.
“When I was at Leicester, we’d lose by a point away to a big club, and it would be like a death in the family because of that expectation to win,” he said.
“It was like that every game, but it was something I thrived off.”
While he is only a year out of the game and will coach many of the players he trained and played with last season, Parling isn’t fazed by those who doubt his ability to build a player-coach relationship after being a recent member of the side.
Parling believes his age gap, combined with his vast club experience, will help build a mutual respect between him and the playing group.
“I think it’s different for me, because I’ve only been here for six months as a player,” he said.
“I’m also significantly older than a lot of the guys in the changeroom and I certainly felt that on day one.
“It’s probably not as bad as someone who’s going to coach guys he’s grown up with for 10 years, I’d imagine that’d be a bit harder,” stated the Englishman.
As he now enters his first preseason with the Rebels as a coach, Parling is ready to hit the ground running as the club pushes for a maiden finals berth.
And it’s that push for the finals which is what will drive Parling into getting the best out of the playing group, with team success the only thing that would make his first year as a coach a one to remember.
“I’m very big on doing certain things which will benefit the team, and if it isn’t how you would usually buy into, it’s something that you just have to do for the team,” he said.
“Success for me is we’ve got to be better than last year. We are here to perform, and we need to get into good habits. Once you get on a roll and you win you get used to it and it’s a good thing from the environments I’ve been in.
“The best thing I can do for the players now is to be the best coach I possibly can be.”