From Osaka to Kurow for Parker

Kobe’s Richard Buckman on his way to score a try against Suntory in Kobe in January. PHOTO: GETTY...
Kobe’s Richard Buckman on his way to score a try against Suntory in Kobe in January. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Former Highlanders and Otago first five-eighth Hayden Parker has gone from one extreme to the other.

One week he was living on the outskirts of Osaka, population 2.6million. A few days later and Parker is back home on the family farm out of Kurow, in the wide open spaces of the South Island back country.

Parker is like a raft of New Zealand players and coaches who had been part of the Japan Top League competition, but have now headed back to New Zealand as the sport stops because of the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Japan Top League has been canned, but there is the Japan Cup on the horizon, scheduled for May — although things are constantly changing.

Parker, who plays for Kobe, said it was hard to follow what was happening at times.

"At Kobe we were supposed to have a week off and then play and then all of sudden it was stopped for two weeks. Then they put it back again. They said to us to go home for 10 days and you might have to come back," he said.

"But that [to come back] was last Sunday and they said they will be making a decision soon. But we are staying here. There is the Japan Cup in May with finals, but we are going round and round in circles and it is changing all the time."

As of late yesterday Japan was not in lockdown.

Parker, who also has All Black Brodie Retallick, former All Black Dan Carter and former Highlanders Richard Buckman and Tom Franklin in his side, said it was a shame, as the side was going well and he was enjoying his time in Japan. It was his second year with Kobe.

He lived just on the outskirts of Kobe and everywhere he looked was huge buildings.

Now back on the family farm, Parker (29) was wandering around the farm and enjoying the clear air.

He was keen to get back to Japan, but when that might happen is up in the air.

Mitsubishi Dynaboars coach Greg Cooper was in isolation in Arrowtown with his son Ben, who had come back from the US.

Cooper returned from Japan on March 22. He said the competition was on hold and although the Japan Cup was still scheduled it was up in the air.

The biggest obstacle to return to Japan for the competition was to be able to fly to Japan and then get back to New Zealand in the coming months.

He was having video conferences with the management team and the players were keeping fit. Former Highlanders forward Jackson Hemopo was a member of the Dynaboars and was back in New Zealand.

Other coaches with Otago links such as Cory Brown, who was at Sanix, and Steve Cumberland, who was also at Kobe, are back in Dunedin. Japan coach Jamie Joseph is in Dunedin.

Last year’s Highlanders co-captains Ben Smith and Luke Whitelock, who are playing for Pau in France, are believed to be staying there, while Lima Sopoaga has remained in England with his club Wasps.

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