Ruan Sims on the similarities between football and fighting fires. By Richard Cooke.


All fired up: Ruan Sims, 34, rugby union/league player

So my sporting family… There’s myself, and then Ashton, who’s the eldest boy, and then we have a sister, CJ, and then Tariq, and then Korbin. The boys all played NRL. Ashton’s over in England now playing Super League, and the two youngest boys are playing for Newcastle in the NRL, and my sister plays gridiron. She’s in the Australian squad for the gridiron.

We don’t like sport at all. We don’t talk about any of it.

I was a gumboot-throwing champion as well. I was foxed. I thought it was a line for lollies, and you had to throw the gumboot the furthest to win a bag of lollies. So that’s how they got me involved in it.

I played football from when I was really young. I played juniors with the boys, and then when I got to 12 and I wasn’t allowed to play anymore, I moved into basketball and played basketball for a while, and then got back into rugby at 17.

At 17, I started playing rugby union. In 1999, I got selected for the Australian squad in my first year of playing and I moved to Sydney. The rest is, as they say, history. I played that until 2010, and then had 12 months off when I was applying to be a firefighter, and then got into rugby league. It’s been on the up and up since then.

It wasn’t too difficult a transition at the time. I still play some sevens and stuff now, and switching between the rules for sevens and the rules for rugby league sometimes gets a little bit muddled. In sevens, you can make a tackle and get up and go for the ball straight away, but I tend to get up and then come back around the front sometimes as though I’m going to marker, which sometimes throws you out.

Which is more painful? At least with league you know where the contact is coming from. It’s always coming from straight ahead of you. But, in union, if you’re in a ruck and you’ve got your head down, you can just cop it from anywhere.

The women who wind up playing rugby league for Australia are those who are most passionate. There is no set profession that is more likely to take it up. They just find the time and the money and exercise to make it worthwhile for them.

We don’t really talk a lot of footy at home. But it is really good to have the boys there. They know what I go through and I know what they go through, and sometimes we’ll say a couple of things to each other to lift our spirits if we’re a little bit down. But, yeah, we’re all pretty much very intrinsically self-motivated people.

I’m just happy to go wherever the wind takes me. I’ve got an excellent career with Fire and Rescue NSW, and they’re so supportive of my football. They give me a lot of flexibility in my job, being a shift worker.

I’d love to still do something related to football when I finish playing. I wouldn’t mind being involved from a coaching perspective. Probably not a head coach. I don’t know whether I’m quite ready for that. There’s a lot of stress that goes with being a head coach.

Fighting fires is very similar to football. It’s a very male-dominated environment, and I get along very well with [my colleagues], so it’s not an issue for me. It’s like going to work with my brothers, which is pretty cool, and I love it. It’s a lengthy process to get into the fire brigade. There were people who were trying in my intake who had been trying for 10 years.

I don’t really get nervous anymore. Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life would have been before our Sevens World Cup final in 2009. It was in front of 70,000 people in Dubai, and that was pretty nerve-racking. More than going into a burning building.

The emotion for me is during the anthem. I really feel it because that’s a lot of pride and there’s a lot of passion, especially when we play New Zealand. The energy that they give off with the haka, I love that – it’s really empowering and it’s a challenge. Of course, afterwards is when the rest of the feeling comes out. When you’ve either won and done everything you could do and you’re just so excited and you’re elated. Unfortunately, the flip side is I feel the losses very keenly.

More than 40 per cent of the NRL playing group is Polynesian. Polynesian and Aboriginal. So we do have a very strong representation in rugby league. I think it’s because rugby league is one of those games that is for everybody. We definitely don’t narrow it down. We accept everyone that comes into our game. That’s part of Polynesian culture as well. They’re very accepting of everybody. Rugby league is like a family, as are Polynesian people. It’s just amazing.


1 . This week’s highlights…

AFL: Sydney Swans v West Coast Eagles

Saturday, 1.45pm (AEST), Sydney Cricket Ground

• NRL: North Queensland Cowboys v Parramatta Eels

Saturday, 7.30pm (AEST), 1300SMILES Stadium, Townsville 

• Super Rugby: Sunwolves v Jaguares

Saturday, 3.15pm (AEST), Prince Chichibu Memorial Stadium, Tokyo

• Netball: West Coast Fever v NSW Swifts

Sunday, 10am (AWST), HBF Stadium, Perth

• Tennis: WTA Tour – Stuttgart final

Sunday, 9.30pm (AEST), Stuttgart, Germany

• Motorsport: MotoGP – Spanish Grand Prix

Sunday, 10pm (AEST), Circuito de Jerez, Cádiz, Spain

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on April 23, 2016 as "All fired up".

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