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Sims ready to heal scars for Country against City

Harvey Norman Country Women’s Open Age coach Ruan Sims knows she will be part psychologist as well as mentor heading into Saturday’s game against City at 4 Pines Park in Sydney.

The Country women were beaten 40-16 last year, on top of a 34-4 loss to City in 2019.

It hasn’t been all doom and gloom with Country upsetting City to win 16-12 in 2018 (there was no game played in 2020 due to COVID-19).

But Sims is mindful of 24-point defeat last May, with Jess Sergis (three tries) and Maddie Studdon (three try assists) having a field day.

“There’s probably a few scars from the recent games but every year is a new opportunity,” Sims said.

“All the girls selected here today really love playing Rugby League and are really quite good at it.

“This match is a reward for the terrific work done in NRLW and what players are currently doing in Harvey Norman NSW women’s competitions, as well as the recent Country Championships.

“We want to keep good quality Country players coming through.”

Sims doesn’t have Sergis to worry about this time around, as she enjoys a rest along with other Harvey Norman NSW Sky Blues stars Kezie Apps, Corban Baxter, Tiana Penitani, Simaima Taufu and Hannah Southwell, as part of managing their workload in choc-full women’s 2022 calendar.

Studdon is back to lead the charge for City – she is one of five players from Parramatta’s NRLW side making up the backbone of coach Darrin Borthwick’s team. He is assistant coach at the Eels.

“No matter what NRLW or Harvey Norman NSW club side they come from, they are all here because they’re very talented,” Borthwick said.

“So, it’s about pulling those talents together and putting them in the right direction for a win on game day.

“If they play for each other and work hard for each other then the ultimate reward could be a Sky Blues jersey.”

Both Borthwick and Sims are assistants to NSW head coach Kylie Hilder for the 2022 Ampol Women’s State of Origin in Canberra on 8 June.

There are eight players across both Country and City sides this weekend, who were named in Hilder’s 24-strong squad last month. That list will be trimmed after Saturday’s game.

“The best part is that we can all get eyes on every single player, see what they’re like in camp, see how they adjust to this different team environment, see how they learn,” Sims said.

“That all bodes well for a strong Sky Blues outfit in the end.”

Sims has former Sky Blues players in Sam Bremner (Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks), Kirra Dibb (North Sydney Bears) and Vanessa Foliaki (St Marys Saints) in her line-up.

“There’s definitely a core group of experienced players there that helps with our cohesion,” she said.

“But the best thing about coming into camp is you spend the whole time together giving you time to find what each player’s strengths are and then making sure the way we want to play brings out those strengths.”

Borthwick has Sky Blues incumbents Renee Targett (Bears) and Filomina Hanisi (Mountied) in his side alongside 2019 and 2020 squad member, Shaylee Bent.

NSW Under 19s Origin captain from last year’s victory over Queensland, Jaime Chapman, is now in her first City Open team and in the frame for her maiden Sky Blues jersey.

One feature of the combined Country-City training session at NSWRL’s Ignite HQ Centre of Excellence on Wednesday was Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues coach Brad Fittler taking over certain drills with the help of fellow True Blues Mark O’Meley, Luke Lewis, Brett Kimmorley (now Wests Tigers Harvey Norman NSW Women’s Premiership coach) and Craig Wing.

Fittler also made the women take off their shoes at the end of the work-out and walk the field in their bare feet – a tradition he’s instilled into the Brydens Lawyers NSW Blues.

“Whenever you get the big boss here, he tells the players what works for him and those messages resonate well with our female players as well as the guys,” Borthwick said.

“They learn off legends like Brad and the other former Origin guys here and they love working with them.

“It’s all part of getting the girls to enjoy the week, realise its history and significance, because at the end of it we get to play the game we love at a representative level. So that’s a nice honour.”


Acknowledgement of Country

New South Wales Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.