Cork rugby pro Rory Parata adjusting to the ‘new normal’ with Cornish Pirates
HAVING made it his home over the past two years, Rory Parata was not going to be found wanting when the Coronavirus started to take its grip on the town of Penzance in the south-west English county of Cornwall.
Since the summer of 2018, the Passage West native has been plying his trade with local Championship outfit Cornish Pirates.
Given he lives amongst a tight-knit community, Parata had no hesitation when he was asked to volunteer alongside a host of the Pirates’ first-team squad. “Our head physio got in contact with the pharmacy up the road. It’s quite a small pharmacy, so obviously no one is allowed inside and they’re getting really big lines. Two of us go up from 9-12 and then another two guys go up from 2-5 and just take people’s names. Help people get their prescriptions,” Parata said.
Whereas a number of leagues have been put on ice for the time being or declared null and void, English rugby’s second-tier was ended in peculiar circumstances. Though they was still seven games left to play, Newcastle Falcons were handed the Championship title on April 4 and replace Saracens in next season’s top-flight.
Pirates claimed third spot in the final standings and Parata has no qualms over an unbeaten Newcastle being awarded their crown.
“Obviously everyone is a bit disappointed because we felt like we were getting a bit of form. We were doing quite well. I know Ealing had some things to say, but I think they [Newcastle] were clearly the best team in the league.
“We played them a few weeks ago and they gave us a bit of a hiding. I think everyone in the Championship knew that they were probably a class above everyone else.”
Now 25, Parata has been well travelled throughout his personal and professional life. Born in Sydney to a New Zealander father and a mother who hails from Bishopstown, Parata was nine years old when he moved to Cork with his family.
After featuring for Rockwell College in the 2013 Munster Schools Senior Cup decider, he accepted a place in the Connacht Academy. After completing a four-year stint in Galway, he enjoyed brief spells in New Zealand (Harbour Dunedin) and Italy (Zebre) before being snapped up by the Cornish Pirates.
The former Dolphin and Sunday’s Well youth had shown considerable promise during his breakthrough season with Connacht in 2015/16, amassing 12 appearances in the westerners’ march towards an historic Guinness PRO12 triumph.
Unfortunately, the intense competition for places ensured opportunities became limited as time went by and Parata admits he could have taken a different approach during his final 12 months at the province.
“For a few of us, that was our first year playing proper, pro full-time rugby. A lot of the guys were laughing. Ronan Loughney and John Muldoon saying ‘jeez, we’ve done this for how many years and you lads come along in your first season and you get to win a PRO12!’.
“Everything came quite quick for me.
“Looking back now, I probably would have told myself not to take it all for granted so much. Obviously the players we had at the time. Robbie [Henshaw] left and Eoin Griffin came in, who has just retired. He was a great player as well. The whole back line in general, we had a lot of great players.”
Like most of the sporting world, Parata is doing his best to adjust to the ‘new normal’ brought upon by this global pandemic. Although the UK Government are imposing major restrictions during this unprecedented crisis, he had displayed admirable ingenuity to maintain a strong level of fitness in advance of the Pirates’ eventual return to competitive rugby.
“I’m quite lucky in that I live in an apartment complex where there’s only two houses in it. The other person who lives right next door to me is another player. We’ve been quite smart with the self-isolation. We were allowed to go into the gym, take a few dumb bells.
“We go on the roof every day and then there’s a football pitch just up the road that I don’t think anyone really goes to. We’ve been up there doing fitness three times a week as well, almost to keep sane at this stage almost,” Parata added.