Ruan Sims can picture it already.
Running out through the tunnel, a wall of noise from the 50,000 fans inside Suncorp Stadium hits her as she makes her way onto the field for the women’s rugby league World Cup final.
That scenario is not so far away. For the first time in rugby league history, the women’s World Cup will be played concurrently with the men’s tournament, with both finals to feature as a double header in Brisbane on December 2.
The Cronulla Sharks’ home ground at Southern Cross Group Stadium, Woolooware has been chosen to host matches in the women’s tournament, with Shark Park to hold pool matches and semi-finals of the competition starting on November 16.
Sims, the Australia and NSW Blues captain, hopes to lead the Jillaroos at the tournament in what would be a highlight of a glittering career.
Sims told the Leader she was already thinking about what was on the horizon.
“That’s the stuff that dreams are made of as an athlete. You want to be playing at your best against the best and in front of the biggest crowd you possibly can,” she said.
“I would love to be selected for the Jillaroos at the end of the year. And I’d love to be playing in that double header in the final against whoever up there at Suncorp and obviously we’d love to come away with the title as well.
“I’m looking forward to the whole year. We’ve got a really big year. The representative stuff, the World Cup is obviously huge for us. Everyone in the shire is going to have access to the best female rugby league players in the world for our round games and semi-finals. And then even better is that the final is going to be a double header with the men’s final. So for the first time ever the sport is going to crown men’s and women’s world champions on the same day.”
The 35-year-old, who plays her club football with Cronulla Caringbah, is one of the pioneers of the women’s game. It is with Cronulla Caringbah that Sims along with fellow Jillaroos Sam Bremner and Maddie Studdon paved the way. Their efforts have seen the club produce further representative players including Jillaroos Allana Ferguson and Corban McGregor.
It was a massive year for women’s rugby league in the shire in 2016, with Cronulla Caringbah taking out the Sydney Metropolitan Women’s Rugby League premiership with a golden-point extra-time win over Greenacre.
Sims hailed the development pathway built by the club and also the efforts of the Cronulla Sharks, who have led the way with women’s rugby league among NRL clubs.
“At Cronulla Caringbah we were very lucky. It’s not that we’ve just recruited six Jillaroos representatives. What’s actually happened is we’ve developed these players,” she said.
“We’ve created Jillaroos out of this program through Helensburgh and Cronulla Caringbah. So we’re very fortunate that there was only myself, Sam Bremner and Maddie Studdon that were originally in the Jillaroos squad. Now you see the likes of Allana Ferguson and Corban McGregor and those girls coming through. I think that’s what we’ll see as more NRL clubs take on girls teams, you’ll see more talent developing.”
Sims said she was excited for the future of the women’s game, with plans for a national women’s competition on the horizon.
“I think everyone has a role to play when it comes to women’s sport. Especially in rugby league, the NRL has an important role with the Jillaroos and creating that top level pathway,” she said.
“NSW and QRL have huge responsibility because they have that state level programming. Then I think the next logical step is at each NRL club to take on that responsibility and create a women’s pathway program and really help to nurture the sport. It’s the fastest growing area in our sport so it’s a pretty exciting time.
“The NRL have already said that they envisage a national competition in the next three to five years. They’ve committed to that which is fantastic. Because we want to make sure when we do it that we do it properly and the correct product is out there on the market and we’re playing to the best of our ability and showing exactly what the women’s game has to offer.”