Influential out-half Dan Parks hopes that he can leave a legacy behind him at Connacht that will continue to serve the province for years to come.
Following a two-year spell on the west coast of Ireland, Dan Parks is one of a number of players who will finish with Connacht at the end of the current season.
Having arrived as a marquee signing in 2012, he now wants to depart the province knowing he has helped shape the stars of the future in some way.
“When I first signed for Connacht it was about coming here, and moving the team forward. It was something I was really looking forward to and thought I could really make an impact,” explained the 35-year-old.
“Last year we worked with a young team and a sprinkling of some older players. This year under Pat Lam’s regime, it’s been different, challenging and rewarding.
“One of my highlights has been to work with so many of the young players. Seeing the progression from Robbie Henshaw, Kieran Marmion, Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin and others is brilliant.
“Hopefully I am leaving a bit of a legacy. I wanted to try and give these guys a bit of extra confidence and belief in themselves and I think this year it’s really come out.
“I hope there will be some of me left in them and that can spur them on for better things in the future, so I’m looking forward to seeing how those guys get on moving forward.”
In addition to taking some of the younger senior squad members under his wing, Parks has also been a part of the Under-18s’ coaching team for the past year.
However, despite his success in the coaching role, the leading points scorer in RaboDirect PRO12 history is not ready to hang up his boots just yet.
“I’m 36 later this month and when I first signed for Connacht I saw it as a road to a coaching role down the line, but I want to keep playing.
“I’m really enjoying myself here but I’ve always said that I don’t want to retire before I’m ready. The last thing I would want would be to sit there twiddling my thumbs and wondering, ‘what if I carried on?’
“I know longer term that I want to go into coaching and stay in the game because I love rugby – it’s my passion – but I feel as if I have a bit of time left to play.”
The talented number 10, who started out in the late 1990s, has enjoyed plenty of happy memories both on and off the pitch during his two years with Connacht.
Currently on 49 caps for the province, Parks will reach the half century if he features against the Ospreys this weekend, but it was his first ever appearance in the green jersey that he remembers most fondly.
“Our victory this season at Toulouse has to be one of the highlights. Winning four straight games towards the end of this season as well when we beat Edinburgh, Zebre, Treviso and the Dragons was great because we haven’t had a run like that for a while.
“Last year some people talk about the Heineken Cup wins but I guess my favourite memory is my first ever match, against Leinster.
“We had a big win that night (34-6) and it was my first taste in front of the passionate Sportsground crowd. Feeding off their energy and seeing how much it meant to the fans was a special moment and something I’ll never forget.
“The friendships I’ve picked up over the past two years is one of the main things I’ve come to love about Connacht and Galway. There are some lovely people here who treat you very well.
“That’s not to say I haven’t been treated well in other places, but I’ve been made to feel very welcome here. I’m quite sad about going but also optimistic for the future.”
Speaking to Parks his enthusiasm for the west coast of Ireland is obvious, even for the weather, which is remarkable for a man who grew up in the perpetual heat of Sydney, Australia.
Should the opportunity present itself the former Scottish international, capped 66 times, would snap at the chance to return to Connacht.
“Galway is brilliant, I love it. I live not far from Salthill and it’s a beautiful spot. Of course I would love to come back here in the future if it becomes a possibility,” he admitted.
“Firstly I’ve got to enjoy the last couple of weeks and then get myself sorted for the next couple of years.
“I just want to thank each and every fan for their support. I know sometimes at Connacht we haven’t always delivered when we should, especially at home this season.
“The fans have always been the ’16th man’ and it really does make such a huge difference. For a relatively small ground it generates a lot of noise and enthusiasm and the whole squad appreciates it.
“Thank you for accepting me. It’s always important when you come to new places you get the crowd’s recognition and I feel like I’ve had that. I’ve made some great memories and friends.”