sports

Jacqueline Sims has raised five kids who are all elite sports stars. Now it’s her turn to shine.

Rugby League World Cup 2017
Thanks to our brand partner, Rugby League World Cup 2017
Down in Gerringong, a picturesque beachside town on the New South Wales south coast, there’s a little three-bedroom farriers cottage flanked by a sprawling backyard.

Just two people live there now: Jacqueline Sims and her husband Peter. But 15 or so years ago it was bursting with their five children. Now aged between 25 and 35, those children are scattered across Australia and around the world playing elite-level Rugby League.

Football comes naturally to the Sims clan. The eldest, former Rugby Union international Ruan, was the first woman to sign an NRL contract, and currently plays for the Cronulla Sharks.

Two of her brothers – Tariq who plays for the St George Illawarra Dragons, and Korbin for the Brisbane Broncos – are among the best forwards in the game. Their brother Ashton plays for the Warrington Wolves over in the UK Super League. Sister CJ, meanwhile, is in the Queensland Rugby League with stints on the Australian gridiron team thrown in.

“I know, it sounds made up, doesn’t it?” Jacqueline, 58, told Mamamia, with a laugh. “They’ve all achieved at a really high level, and they’ll tell you that they had to go without to get there, that we did as a family. But that was just part of the end goal.”

Three of the rugby league-playing siblings will be taking the field at the Rugby League World Cup, with Ashton and Korbin playing for Fiji (their mother’s birth country) in Townsville and Canberra, and Ruan with the Australian Jillaroos in Sydney.

But it all kicked off back in that little Gerringong cottage.

jacqueline sims rugby league
Peter, Jacqueline, CJ, Ruan and Ashton. Image: supplied.

"Sport in our family started in the yard. We always had rules and it was always about fairness," Jacqueline told us.

"It was really fun. In cricket season we had a pitch rolled. I'd be sitting out there watching them while doing my sewing, knitting or whatever, and I had one main rule: first to cry, that's it, end of game. Also I had some beautiful pots, so whoever hit those, same thing - end of game."

In the off season, the backyard became a golf course or a rugby pitch, the macadamia tree was climbed over and over, the basketball hoop pounded for hours. (As a former WNBL player herself, that was Jacqueline's favourite.)

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It was a place where the children unwound together, and honed their skills for the glut of organised sports that stuffed the Sims family calendar. Between the five kids there was cricket, netball, basketball, rowing, athletics, swimming. Morning showers and breakfasts often happened at the local pool before school, while the evenings meant everyone chipping in to prepare and pack lunches.

"They all had to be in bed by 7:30 at the latest. They'd read for half an hour, then it was lights out. And they all did it, because they knew we always got up early in the mornings," Jacqueline said.

"I'd wake them, they'd dress themselves while I'd go off and do my an hour and a half of swimming and surfboat rowing, and then come back home, ready to chuff off to whatever sport was on. It was always that structured."

It had to be. And it was she who structured it.

"I was strict but I was fair," Jacqueline said. "Peter and I would follow good-cop-bad-cop style of parenting. I tended to be the bad cop most of the time, but because I was at home with them, that didn't matter. It was always about what was right and what was wrong."

That meant dedicated study time, and no TV or video games until the weekend, which were generally taken up by sport anyway.

"Ruan tells a funny story about how she and Ashton would stand the trampoline up in the yard and tie the three younger kids to it, so the two of them could [get some time] on the Nintendo," Jacqueline laughed.

But there were other sacrifices too. Plenty of missed birthday parties and sleepovers, shared bedrooms and gear.

"Peter was working three jobs sometimes. We tried Peter staying home and me being in the workforce, but that didn't work - he's just a workaholic. We went back the other way, and he was constantly going out and doing jobs, extra ones, just to make sure that I had petrol for the car," Jacqueline said.

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A post shared by Ruan Sims (@ruan_sims) on

But the kids never felt as though they were missing out.

"Each child would get a pair of boots one week, and they wouldn't get a chance to get anything else for another five weeks," she said. "And all our children, that's they way they think. They're not motivated by the money side of things."

Instead, they do it for the love of the sport, of competition.

"It was a natural reflection of the way they were brought up and the way my husband and I were brought up. We're not materialistic. That just doesn't suit our family," Jacqueline added.

With the kids earning their own money, raising their own families, now it's Jacqueline's time. She's currently studying English and history at university (for which she has a High Distinction average), but hopes to finish her law degree and eventually complete a doctorate.

It means she's missed out on driving or flying around to see her kids play this season. But she's hoping to catch three of them at the World Cup.

"When I go to a game, I have my white peaked cap on, I have my earphones - one side is the ref's ear, and one side is the commentary - and I have my football magazine open to the page with the team list. No-one can talk to me, because I just sit there and I watch the game," Jacqueline said.

"I often sit away from my husband because he doesn't like how I go so deep into the game. But I love it."

Are you a rugby league mum? Tells us what it's like for you below!

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner, Rugby League World Cup 2017.

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