Eric Simms (rugby league)

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Eric Simms
Personal information
Full name Eric John Simms
Nickname Ecca[1]
Born 1945
Karuah, New South Wales
Playing information
Position Back; Centre
Club
Years Team Pld T G FG P
South Sydney[2]
1965–75 Crookwell Green Devils[1] 206 23 803 86 1841
Total 206 23 803 86 1841
Representative
Years Team Pld T G FG P
1968 New South Wales 1 0 6 1 14
1968–70 Australia[3] 8 1 39 3 87
Coaching information
Club
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1976–77 Crookwell Green Devils[1]
1978 La Perouse[1]
Total 0 0 0 0

Eric Simms (born 1945 Karuah , New South Wales)[citation needed] is an Indigenous Australian former rugby league footballer who has been named amongst the nation's finest of the 20th century. His position of choice was at fullback although he could also play as a centre. Simms played his entire first grade career for South Sydney with whom he won four premierships and was top point-scorer for four consecutive seasons.

In August 2008, Simms was named at fullback in the Indigenous Team of the Century.[4][5][6] Simms set several records in his playing days, some which still stand. He is also noted for his goal-kicking ability (field, penalty and conversion): he once kicked five field goals in eleven minutes (against Penrith in 1969).[7] It has been said of Simms and his ability to kick field goals that he is "one of the few men whose influence was such it singlehandedly changed the game."[8][9]

Early life and education[edit]

Eric Simms was born in 1945, the eldest son John (Jack) Simms, a Ullugundy Island man, who came to Karuah to live for a while before moving to La Perouse in Sydney. His mother was born Gwendoline May Cook and became Gwendoline Ping when her mother remarried. He and his sister, Beverley, grew up on the former Aboriginal Reserve at Karuah, raised by his mother and stepfather, Fred Ridgeway, and with six other younger brothers and sisters.[9]

Eric attended Karuah Public School,[10] and Raymond Terrace High School where "he was taught the art of goalkicking by Les Leggatt, sportsmaster".[7]

Playing career[edit]

Simms moved to La Perouse where he played for La Perouse Panthers Junior Rugby League Football Club[11] in the 1964 premiership-winning team.[12] He was a 19 year old truck driver when he was signed for South Sydney in 1965. He played in the centres for South's grand finalist team which lost to St George (12 – 8) before a then record crowd of 78,056; Simms scored the last points in the game with a penalty goal.[7][13]

Simms went on to play 206 first grade games, scoring a total of 1,841 career points.[2][14] In 1969, he broke the record for the most points scored in a premiership season with 265, previously held by Dave Brown of Eastern Suburbs. He held the record until broken by Mick Cronin over a decade later.

Club records[edit]

Simms set and still holds a number of South Sydney club records:[14]

  • Most points in first grade career: 1841 points (23 tries, 803 goals, 86 field goals);
  • Most first grade points in a season: 265 points in 1969 (1 try, 112 goals, 19 field goals);
  • Most goals in first grade career: 890;
  • Most goals in a first grade season: 131 in 1969;
  • Most goals in a first grade game: 11 against Cronulla, 11 April 1969 and against Penrith, 27 July 1969.

Simms is third place in the number of most first grade matches: Bob McCarthy (211), Craig Coleman (208), Eric Simms (206).[14]

World Cups 1968, 1970[edit]

In the 1968 Rugby League World Cup, Simms gained the distinction of becoming the fourth Aboriginal to represent Australia in rugby league. He scored 50 points in four games at the 1968 World Cup, a record which still stands today.

He played in the 1970 World Cup in England two years later and scored 37 points in total. The final, played at Leeds in November, 1970 has been described "as the most savage international ever played" and "a running brawl"; after the full-time whistle, with Australia having won, Simms offered a handshake to the English winger, John Atkinson, who responded by head-butting Simms.[15]

Coaching career[edit]

After the 1975 season, Simms moved to Crookwell, New South Wales, with his wife Sue and three children, Brendon, Kristie and Simone where he was captain-coach in 1976 until an arm injury (sustained in a tackle) forced his playing retirement at age 31. He coached Crookwell in 1977 and returned to Sydney where he coached the La Perouse team in 1978.[1][8]

Goal kicking prowess[edit]

Simms is regarded as one of the greatest goal kickers in Rugby League.[16]

Ron Coote has said that Simms' kicking ability was a combination of talent and hard work: "Eric would get to training and stand on the halfway line and Clive Churchill would stand under the posts ... . Eric would practise field goals from halfway one after the other for half an hour. Bang, bang, bang straight over. He hardly ever missed."[7]

Simms has said: "Of course anyone can do it in training but it's harder when people are charging at you and the crowd is booing. Often I'd have to kick from weird angles under all sorts of pressure. Against Wests once I remember Mick Alchin coming around from the scrumbase to flatten me just as I took a shot. He hit me so hard that I went up in the air and came down flat on my back. But I was watching the ball go between the posts. I must have timed the kick just right."[7]

Of the field goal rule change, he has said: "I never really believed the league changed the rule because of me ... . But over the years so many people told me I was the cause that there must be something to it."[7]

Awards and Honours[edit]

In 2001 he was named in the Indigenous Team of the Century at the Eric Simms Challenge - A Tribute to Indigenous Rugby League, Redfern Oval, June 2001.[5] The team was chosen by a panel chaired by then Senator Aden Ridgeway, a former South Sydney junior league player and then deputy leader of the Australian Democrats in the Australian Senate; other panel members were Ian Heads (rugby league journalist and historian),[17] Frank Hyde, Roy Masters and David Middleton (a rugby league historian). The Eric Simms Challenge was described by the Rabbitohs' marketing manager as "a salute to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island players, past and present" and was a match between the NRL Rabbitohs team and a representative Aboriginal team, the Murdi Paaki Warriors, a development side from western New South Wales ("from the Queensland border, across to Burren Junction in the east, to Gulargambone in the south-east, through to Bourke, Cobar, Ivanhoe and down to the Victorian border").[6]

Life after League[edit]

In 1977, Simms returned to the family home, Chifley Sydney where he started work on the wharves, an industry in which he has worked for more than 30 years.[8] He worked at Port Botany where the demands of shift work put an end to his coaching days and his rugby league career. By 1997, he was a foreman for P&O on the White Bay wharves at Port Sydney.[1] In September, 2008 he was living in a southern Sydney suburb and working at the Rozelle wharves.[8]

Eric Simms married Charlene. They have two children. Simms has three children to first wife Sue.[8]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Cameron Bell, "The man with the magic boot : Ecca Simms back at Redfern Oval", Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 17 August 1997, p 64 via factiva accessed 2 September 2011.
  2. ^ a b "South Sydney Rabitohs" in "2010 Season Guide", Big League Magazine, 24 February 2010, p 171 via factiva accessed 1 September 2011.
  3. ^ "Australian Internationals, P to U, Australian Test Records 1908-2009, 2009 in review", Big League Magazine, 9 December 2009, p 218
  4. ^ "Modern stars join greats in Indigenous Team of Century". ABC News. 2008-08-09. Retrieved 2008-08-10. 
  5. ^ a b Mike Gandon, "Russo locked in as a Koori great", Illawarra Mercury, 20 June 2001, p 60, Fairfax News Store accessed 2 September 2011.
  6. ^ a b Mike Gandon, "Rabbitohs in tribute to indigenous league players", Illawarra Mercury, 14 June 2001, p 75, Fairfax Newstore accessed 2 September 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Grantlee Kieza, "Uncovered - what happened next", The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 30 July 2004, p B25 via factiva accessed 1 September 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e Paul Kent, The legend who changed the game, The Daily Telegraph thetelegraph.com.au 30 September 2008 accessed 1 September 2011.
  9. ^ a b Beverley Manton, in Aboriginal Women’s Heritage: Port Stephens, June 2004, The National Parks and Wildlife Service, [www.environment.nsw.gov.au New South Wales Department of Environment and Conservation], Hurstville, ISBN 1-74137-066-3
  10. ^ Alison Branley, "History lessons", The Newcastle Herald, 22 August 2009, p 6, via factiva
  11. ^ "Briefly: Panthers turn 50", Southern Courier (Sydney), 23 August 2011, p 103
  12. ^ Andrew Webster, "Sport", The Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 24 April 2010, p 136 via factiva accessed 2 September 2011.
  13. ^ Mike Gandon, "The famous five", Illawarra Mercury, 6 July 2001, p 74 Fairfax News Store accessed 2 September 2011.
  14. ^ a b c Club Records, The Club Tradition, South Sydney District Rugby League Football Club Limited, www.rabbitohs.com.au, 2011 accessed 2 September 2011.
  15. ^ "100 Most Dramatic Moments in Rugby League History", Part 1 of 4, Sunday Telegraph (Sydney), 18 March 2007, p R01 via factiva accessed 3 September 2011.
  16. ^ Steve Mascord, "Magic man of honour - He's always chasing records but only one thing counts for El Masri", Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 27 April 2007, p 48 via factiva accessed 3 September 2011.
  17. ^ "Interview: Ian Heads" (transcript), 20 April 2008, Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

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