Jillaroos veteran Ruan Sims has staved off any niggling thoughts of retirement in a bid to play for alongside her sister Canecia.
Unlike fellow co-captains Steph Hancock and Renae Kunst, who will hang up their boots at the conclusion of the World Cup starting on Thursday, 35-year-old Sims has vowed to play on.
The endlessly talented Sims rugby league clan now has a fifth member after Canecia took up the sport three months ago.
Skills honed in the backyard and the Sims lounge room growing up alongside brothers Ashton, Tariq and Korbin have served Canecia well in a successful American football career, but she decided this year it was time to make the transition to the family’s adopted sport.
She played for Brothers Ipswich and made the south-east Queensland emerging squad, and Ruan said it was only a matter of time before she was joined by her sister in the Jillaroos team.
“I’m not retiring after this World Cup, I’ll continue to play on and I really hope that I’m fit enough and strong enough and good enough to play when she comes through, because I have no doubt she’ll make the Jillaroos in the very near future,” Ruan said.
“She’s only been playing rugby league for three months, she’s a raw talent.
“She went to Canada for the women’s gridiron World Cup in June this year. She was one of the co-captains and she learned a lot out of it and I really hope to get her converted full-time to rugby league so we have five siblings playing the one sport.”
No one in the rugby league world would be surprised to hear Canecia is on the path to rugby league success.
She partook in “Friday Night Fight Night” like the rest of the Sims clan growing up. After swim class, parents Jacqueline and Peter would drive their kids home, cook dinner and then push the couches back in the lounge room to set up the arena.
The wrestling rules were simple enough as the fireplace crackled in the background – open-handed slaps were allowed but no punching, biting or kicking. Jacqueline and Peter oversaw the whole thing as referees.
Then on Sunday afternoons, the Sims’ spacious Gerringong backyard was the place to be. Children from the neighbourhood would frequently stop by for a game of footy, but sometimes it was just the Sims kids.
“It’d be Ashton and I playing against the three little ones, or it’d be myself and CJ [Canecia] playing against the boys,” Ruan said.
“Ashton tells a really great story. Apparently I’d tackled Korbin and I’d got him a bit high and Korbin was a bit upset and Ashton was fired up because I’d hurt his little brother.
“Ashton was like ‘That’s it, I was all fired up and I was coming off the back fence and I was going to run right over the top of her and I took off and the next thing I knew I was on my back, looking at the sky’.”
Their father Peter walked up, patted Ruan on the back and kept going. It’s this kind of brutal defence the Cook Islands can expect against the Jillaroos on Thursday, and what awaits England and Canada over the coming week.
Ruan said she and her siblings owe everything to their parents.
Growing up they went without commercial television, so their rugby league fix at a national level came via either the ABC on a Saturday afternoon, or on Grandstand through the radio. Sims now works for the network at various NRL games as a sideline commentator and analyst.
“I can’t describe it any more than our parents didn’t pigeonhole us because we were boys or girls, they just wanted us to be active so they got us involved in everything,” Ruan said.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better childhood. I didn’t know what The Simpsons was until I moved out of home.
“You had to [hold your own], five kids fighting at the dinner table for the nice food and fighting it out in the backyard to survive. The grocery bill would’ve been phenomenal for mum and dad, I believe that’s where my love of carbohydrates started at a very young age.
“Mum and Dad won’t take any credit for it because that’s the people they are but we’ve achieved what we’ve achieved because of the way they brought us up and we’ve become who we are because of our siblings and our family and our parents.”
The women’s Rugby League World Cup pool games and semi-finals will be played at Southern Cross Group Stadium in Cronulla, while the decider will be played before the men’s final in Brisbane on December 2.