At the age of 16, Matt Parsons had given the game away.

He was intending on playing golf when a chance meeting on the green saw an opportunity to trial for St George come his way.

“I was at a golf camp in Narrabeen when I was 16 and I had given footy away,” Parsons told the Our Town Our Team podcast.

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“One of the pro golfers, Bill McWilliam who was a life member of St George and he said, ‘you’re a pretty well-built kid, I can get you a trial at St George if you want to trial’.

“12-months later I showed up to Kogarah Oval for a trial with 1,000 kids and I got through the trial and made the Jersey Flegg team.”

After languishing in the lower grade, Parsons left the Dragons while his teammates Nathan Brown and Gorden Tallis went on to make their first-grade debuts.

He’s become disillusioned with the game.

Two unimaginable family tragedies led to the forward needing a break.

Parsons returned to the country and played park football for two seasons.

It was during this time he rediscovered his love for the game.

“At the end of the Jersey Flegg season in 1994 I lost my dad, he had a heart attack and died in the grandstand in Cronulla,” Parsons added.

“I went to England in the off-season and when I was coming home Mum got killed in a car accident coming down to pick me up from Sydney.

“I just didn’t really want to play anymore.

“Absolutely, I actually got to the stage where I enjoyed playing (bush) footy again and I got to the stage where I loved it again.”

Having linked with South Sydney, he man maintain believed he’d wear the cardinal and myrtle for the rest of his career.

That was, until 1999.

The NRL was determined to cut its competition to 14 teams and removed the Rabbitohs from the premiership for the 2000 season.

That led to his move to Newcastle.

“Myself and Craig Wing were the only two guys guaranteed contracts for 2000,” Parsons said. 

“But if South’s got kicked out of the comp, I thought everyone’s rosters would be filed up.

“Then I had an opportunity with Scott Campbell who was the trainer at Newcastle at the time.

“He rang me up and said Warren (Ryan) wants you to come to Newcastle because Chief’s retiring.”

His first season with the Knights was a strong one.

The team finished one game short of the grand final before claiming the NRL premiership against Parramatta the following year.

That achievement sits atop of the list.

“I did take some minutes to think about where we were and what we had achieved,” he said.

“Once the pandemonium wore off, I think that was time to reflect on we had actually achieved.”

Parsons retired at the end of the 2004 season with 164 first grade games to his name.

It was a decision ultimately made for him when the club opted not to offer him a new deal but it’s one Parsons holds no ill feeling about.

“Well during my last year or two I had done some part-time work with Charlton United who were won of our major sponsors,” Parsons added.

“At the end of 2004, they offered me a job back home in Tamworth.

“The club obviously came to a decision that they weren’t going to re-sign me, which is no worries, that’s how things work.

“So, I decided to come straight home.”