Gary Parcell with his grandson Matt.
Gary Parcell with his grandson Matt.

Gary never left the area reaching great heights: Tribute

Michael Nunn

LOYAL, family focused, part of rugby league history unlikely to ever be repeated.

Ipswich has lost the last member of the city's famous international front row from 1960, with Gary Parcell passing away on Monday.

Parcell played eight Tests for Australia and 14 games for Queensland from 1956-62 while never leaving Ipswich.

He always remained loyal to the city and the people.

Earlier this year, I visited the Parcell home of 66 years and spent the morning talking league. We were sitting under the framed photo from Men of League, featuring Gary playing for Australia and staring at the Bakehouse Steakhouse bar sign souvenir that the Parcell's owned for 21 years. You got a rich sense of Ipswich.

Sometimes I come up with a plan and I think it is a good one. My plan was to interview Gary for my Jets Buzz column this year.

I spoke to former Jets captain and Gary's son Steve and he explained that his dad would be happy to do it but cannot do it on the phone. I would have to come to Radford and visit.

Sometimes plans do not work out and it is for the better.

The Parcell's property at Radford is a green garden oasis among a lot of dry land, with a creek running through it.

Across the creek is a timber bridge, built by Gary and his brothers to surprise Mrs Parcell while she was away one week.

I was able to sit in the Parcell's back room and talk league with Gary and Mrs Parcell chiming in with dates and memories when Gary's memory faded a little.

I have experienced something a phone call would never create.

They were just like that Ipswich front row combination from 1960, looking after each other.

FAREWELL GARY: As witty as hardworking on the field

QT rugby league columnist Michael Nunn with two Ipswich-bred greats Gary Parcell and Noel Kelly at a Jets Old Boys function. Parcell and Kelly were two-thirds of the Australian team's front row in 1960.
QT rugby league columnist Michael Nunn with two Ipswich-bred greats Gary Parcell and Noel Kelly at a Jets Old Boys function. Parcell and Kelly were two-thirds of the Australian team's front row in 1960.

Parcell's proudest achievement was being part of the all-Ipswich front row with Dud Beattie and Noel Kelly in 1960.

"Kelly was mad, truly mad but a great friend with Dud. I am proud we all came from the same city. It won't ever happen again I don't think,'' Gary said.

"Dud Beattie and I had a hell of a time pushing in scrums because Ned (Kelly) was usually fighting everyone."

Gary's father Percy came to Radford and settled down and it was not long until he was playing for Ipswich Brothers and Queensland. It was not too long after that his son Gary was following the same path.

When I asked if Gary was ever tempted to leave, the answer was simple and direct as he looked around his Radford property.

"I got offers but I didn't want to leave the area. I never thought too much about it. This is home,'' he said.

You cannot get more Ipswich than puzzlement at even asking about leaving.

Ipswich and Australian rugby league great Gary Parcell
Ipswich and Australian rugby league great Gary Parcell

Gary would tour with the Kangaroos in 1959 and be part of the last Queensland team to take a series off the Blues until Origin came along 21 years later in 1980.

The 1959 tour of the UK would stretch from September until January 1960 and take in 38 matches including six Test matches, Gary would play in five of those Test matches. Parcell would return to England for the World Cup in 1960.

Parcell reflected on his trips to England. "It's a long time away isn't it?"

"They were good fun, it was a great time in my life, I am very grateful,'' he said.

"Tough football against the English. They had a few forwards that would like to touch your face and grab your eyes.

"We sorted it out though.''

Gary Parcell in 1962. Picture: The Courier-Mail Archive.
Gary Parcell in 1962. Picture: The Courier-Mail Archive.

Purcell reflected on his battles with English forward Derek Turner who famously would tangle with Parcell's Ipswich mate Beattie in 1962. Both were sent from the field in Australia's one point win.

"Against Wakefield Turner kept hitting Barry Muir," Gary recalled.

"So Muir said to me and Dud, 'Come and get him'.

"We got him and cut him across the eye.

"When we lined up for the Test match I said to him: 'What happened Derek? Did you fall off a motorbike'?''

The Parcell name would not end there with the family contributing richly to Ipswich league for generations.

The Parcells would contribute three future Jets with son Steve, and grandsons Matt and Sam playing for the Ipswich club.

Percy Parcell's nephew, Hector Gee, also played for Australia. He scored twice in the "Battle of Brisbane" - the 1932 Test against Great Britain which was the most violent, horrific and bloodiest game of rugby league, won 15-6 by Australia.

Parcell's legacy would stretch through Ipswich. Ian Robson played for Wests Panthers with his explosive wide running earning him four Queensland jumpers in 1969 and Australian jumpers with a tour the same year to New Zealand.

Working in his father's Duncan Robson's fruit shop on Wharf Street when not terrorising defences, Ian would be in awe of Gary.

"Gary would come in to the shop and you'd wonder how someone so gentle and softly spoken was so feared but then you'd see these massive hands that's what I remember huge hands," Robson recalled.

"He always made time for you, always chatted and made you feel special. Just a lovely man.

"He'd ask how your football was going and he'd take an interest. For someone with his standing in the game and the area, it has stayed with me."

Former Valleys forward and 1979 premiership winner Al McInnes had access to Gary for a lot of his life.

"The Parcells have been our neighbours for the past 100 years and as I grew up Gary and Win, Mick and Jan, Jeff and Ellen and families ran a dairy farm there and were very much a valued part of our community," McInnes recalled fondly.

"I started catching the high school bus in front of Gary's house so we got to see them fairly regularly Gary would often laugh and suggest we leave home earlier as we flew down the hill on our bikes and just make it in time.

"I started playing for West End Ipswich Under 16's and would invariably see Gary either at the farm or the North Ipswich Reserve where he was a regular and suitably respected by all that knew him.

"He would freely offer helpful hints or advice that he considered advantageous to my rugby league education.

"Between Gary and another neighbour Dave Roderick, who played front row for Queensland in the early 1970's and would kindly take me to training. I was fortunate indeed to receive the benefit of their experience, which would hold me in good stead in later years. Gary will indeed be missed."

Gary Parcell's legacy will stand as a tough footballer who never left Ipswich. He was a father, husband and grandfather who was loyal and hardworking but with a kindness that did not fit the fearsome front rower image.