IF the pre-season of Gerringong’s Tariq Sims is anything to go by, the 28-year-old appears set for his best year to date on the rugby league field.
Entering his eighth NRL season, and third with St George Illawarra Dragons, Sims has been one of the standouts of Paul McGregor’s squad this pre-season.
“This pre-season is definitely up there with one of the hardest I’ve been through,” Sims said.
“I thought last year was by far the hardest I’d endured and then this year has been even tougher – just in terms of kilometres in the legs.
“In saying that, it’s been one I’ve really enjoyed and it’s been rejuvenating for me as a player.”
Combine the fact that he is injury free, been able to do a full pre-season with the Red V and that he is hoping to cement Joel Thompson’s vacant left second-row position, the Lions product is champing at the bit to rip in.
“It’s funny – before Christmas, I was training as the right back-rower but with Joel [Thompson] leaving, it’s opened a position for me to slip right in to that left edge,” he said.
“Gareth [Widdop] and I have really clicked and training really well together on that left edge.
“I think there’s a lot of aspects that can benefit the whole squad with me playing on the left with Gareth [Widdop], allowing Tyson [Frizell] to play with Ben [Hunt] on the right.
“Then you look at our outside backs, who can create space and offload – it’s exciting times ahead.”
Hunt is just one of the club’s new recruits, along with James Graham, which has Sims believing this is one of the strongest teams he’s ever been a part of.
“The new blokes have come in and complimented our style of play perfectly, which has been great,” he said.
“Especially once those blokes get some games under their belts, I think we have the confidence that we can beat anyone on their day.
“The club is well positioned to achieved the goals that we have set out to do as a group.”
As well as the Dragons having team goals, Sims, a Fijian international, has a number of personal goals for himself in 2018.
“First and foremost, I want to cement that back-row spot with the Dragons and strike up a strong combination with Gareth [Widdop] and do as much damage as we can at the front end of the year,” he said.
“Then hopefully on the back of that form and the change in the coaching ranks with the NSW Blues, I can get in that State of Origin squad to take on Queensland.
“Playing for NSW has always been a huge driving force for me – being able to represent my family and where I’m from.
“Most importantly though, I want to get that chance to test myself at the highest level, in that State of Origin cauldron.”
Speaking of family, Sims, who also has played six games for NSW Country, believes his family and growing up in Gerringong have played a massive role in shaping the person he is today.
“I’ve had great role models growing up in my life, especially when it comes to sport,” he said.
“None is bigger than my brother Ashton – who played for the Dragons at a very young age.
“When I made the move to Brisbane from Gerringong, I moved in with Ashton and that’s when I learnt the most about being professional.
“Things like, ‘if you’re on time, you’re late’ and putting myself in the best position to succeed at both training and in the games – really helped my maturity on and off the field.”
Those aspects that Sims learnt from his brother Ashton he is now using to mentor the younger Dragons, including fellow Gerringong products Reuben Garrick and Jackson Ford.
“Unfortunately, those younger blokes don’t have the luxury of having their big brother there, helping them get through everything,” he said.
“I’ve always got a soft spot for the Gerringong boys and with three of us in the squad now, any time they need advice or help, I’m happy to assist to the best of my ability.
“I know that’s the best way for them to achieve their goals – because if one bloke from Gerringong makes it, we all make it.”
Another Gerringong product making a name for themselves is Tariq’s sister Ruan – the captain of the world champion Jillaroos.
“Ruan’s a phenomenal athlete – she spearheaded a lot of things including getting the new women’s NRL competition over the line,” he said.
“You just have to look at her resume and what she’s achieved in both the working world as well as her sporting career across the board – I’m talking rugby league, rugby union, rowing, the list goes on.
“She’s one of those athletes that if she wants to put her mind to it, she’ll achieve it.
“I’ve got nothing but high praise for Ruan – she’s definitely blazed trials for young women who want to give sport a crack.
“She’s been absolutely unreal and it’s now great to see the benefits to come fruition.
“Mind you, she’s quite a handful with the ball and I wouldn’t want to have to tackle her.”
Sims and the Dragons will now switch their focus to trial games when they take on Hull FC this Saturday.
Following this, the Dragons head out to Mudgee to play the Charity Shield against South Sydney on February 24.
“To be honest, I can’t wait to take the field – it’s been a long and educational pre-season but at this time of year, I’m always keen to get stuck in to round one,” he said.
“It can’t come soon enough.”
Adding an extra bit of flavour to the Dragons’ season opener, is the fact Sims will battle his brother Korbin and the Brisbane Broncos on Thursday, March 8 at UOW Jubilee Oval.
“As a family, we have always had a pact that if we ever play each other, that we give nothing but out best,” Sims said.
“So Korbin can expect plenty of elbows and knees in round one and no doubt I can expect the same.”