Luke Parks’ on-field strengths for the QBE Sydney Swans Academy under-18s side are his spoils, one-on-one contests and willingness to put his body on the line when it counts.
In the past couple of years, 18-year-old Parks has worked hard at his defensive craft and was rewarded a few months ago when he was selected in the elite national AFL Academy program to train alongside the best players in the country.
“I was over the moon when I got the call that I was in the AFL Academy, I was ecstatic,’’ Parks said.
“It was a real confidence-builder coming into this year and tells me I’m on the right track.’’
Parks, who played his junior footy at St Ives Footbal Club on Sydney’s north shore, built on his strong 2018 form in last week’s opening NAB League game against the Tasmania Devils, when he was one of the Swans Academy’s best players in its 14-point victory.
Swans Academy head coach Jared Crouch praised Parks’ ability to team with the other defenders and make life difficult for the Tasmanian forwards.
Academy General Manager Chris Smith said Parks was first spotted in the Paul Kelly Cup aged 11 at primary school and has been in the Academy ever since.
During the past six years he’s developed into a highly respected team player.
“Luke is a very tough, courageous footballer, and he’s also extremely competitive. He was very consistent playing as a tall defender for the Academy last year, and we know he’ll lead the way for us across half-back again this season,’’ Smith said.
“His ability to cover the ground, play tall or small, to read the cues and put his body on the line when it counts, make him a very valuable and respected member of our Academy squad.
“Luke is very professional and focussed on his football, but we also love his quirky humour and his creative bent."
While on the field Parks is crafting his defensive skills, off the field his passion and strengths lie in the creative arts.
He’s doing year 12 at school in Sydney and working hard to craft a sculpture that will be the major work for his favourite HSC subject, art.
“My major work is a wire sculpture of the anatomy of the head, spine and rib cage,’’ Parks said.
“The concept is about the fragility of life. I’m making it from copper wire which will corrode and break down, so that works with my concept.’’
He’s already completed a sculpture of a hand to test out his idea, and he's lost count of the number of hours he’s put into the project.
Parks will play a key role for the Swans Academy under-18s team on Saturday, when it takes on arch-rival GWS at Manuka Oval in Canberra from 11am, with the match being live streamed via the NAB League app.
The contest will be important to decide which players make the combined Allies team (made up of players from NSW, Queensland, Tasmania and the NT) for the AFL Under-18 Championships in July.
But Parks is not looking too far ahead, and he's instead taking the advice of Crouch to play for the team and enjoy the ride.
“We did well against Tasmania last week,’’ Parks said.
“It was a tough game and we held on until the end in heavy, slippery conditions.
“It was our first game in this new league and we moved the ball well. That win gives us confidence against GWS this weekend.’’