Tariq Sims has been on a gruelling, epic journey to recovery.
Tariq Sims has been on a gruelling, epic journey to recovery.

How broken Blues star beat ‘demons on his shoulders’

BEFORE Tariq Sims could dream about donning a Blues jersey, he had to learn how to walk again.

And then run. And then jog. And then have the confidence to be tackled.

As he prepared for his State of Origin debut, Sims revealed the full extent of his horror ordeal while recovering from two shocking broken legs.

It included North Queensland Cowboys staff videoing Sims' walking style to show how badly his limp had become.

Forget about playing rugby league again, former North Queensland trainer Glen Murphy just wanted Sims to be able to walk properly.

 

Sims credits Murphy for turning around his career after the pair walked up to 400km through Townsville together during Sims' long, slow comeback to the game.

"He was umming and ahhing if he would walk properly again," said Murphy, who played 52 top-grade games for the Cowboys before becoming the club's head conditioner for more than a decade.

Sims leaves the field during with a double leg fracture.
Sims leaves the field during with a double leg fracture.

"At the start it was hard. He was saying he didn't think he could do it anymore.

"My job was to keep him motivated and tell him he was a long time retired, but I would have understood if he did retire.

"I remember asking him if he wanted to play football and he said 'yes', but said he didn't know if he could. He had demons on his shoulders."

Sims' Origin debut on Wednesday night is more than a reward for his good performances with St George Illawarra this year.

It is also reward for the sacrifices he made to get himself back on the field despite setbacks which left him fearing his NRL career was over.

"Anyone that breaks such an important bone in their body as their leg, (quitting) would have to cross your mind," Sims said.

In hospital after surgery to pin the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg.
In hospital after surgery to pin the tibia and fibula bones in his left leg.

"You would be pretty crazy to think it wouldn't.

"You break a leg once and it's nerve-racking and you have to go through the mental demons, and then you do it again as a 22-year-old.

"The first (I did not think much about it). I was only 21 and I just wanted to get back out there because I'd had such a blast of a year.

"The second time I had to learn how to walk, run, jog and then change angles and then get tackled around the legs."

Murphy was the first to reach Sims when he broke his leg for the second time in months as Origin selection loomed six years ago.

The first step in a long journey.
The first step in a long journey.

It was the start of a close bond between the pair.

"He just said, 'Murph, I've done it again'," Murphy said. "We walked countless kilometres because he couldn't run and we didn't want to put him on a bike in case he fell off.

"We would walk from his house to weights at the club every day and back together.

"It wasn't that you had to teach him how to walk, it was about walking without a limp.

"He was always going to walk. We had to get rid of the limp and the little things he was doing wrong.

"At the start it was quite a big limp and he got on top of it. We had to video him walking just to show him how bad the limp was.

Running up Castle Hill in Townsville
Running up Castle Hill in Townsville

"We started off walking on a treadmill and then walking on the grass.

"He was upset a few times. Physically I had no doubts he would get back but mentally I was worried about him. Whether the demons on his shoulder would ever go away.

"After probably two or three months he could see light at the end of the tunnel. He started to become positive."

When Sims could finally resume full contract training before the start of the 2013 season, Murphy was anxious.

"He took a first hit and everyone took a deep breath," Murphy said.

Much has changed for Sims since he was a Blues hopeful while playing for the Cowboys.

He joined the Newcastle Knights but is now playing with the Dragons. He is also a husband and father of two.

Talk about a reward for your hard work … (Phil Hillyard)
Talk about a reward for your hard work … (Phil Hillyard)

Despite almost having his career cut short, Sims, now 28, never lost his drive.

"I was always very passionate about trying to play at the highest level of football and the Origin arena is that," Sims said.

"We get paid to run into people and people have to tackle your legs. If you're going into a game thinking you can give less than 100 per cent you'd be in trouble.

"I never lost my passion for playing."

A frank conversation with Dragons coach Paul McGregor before this season helped to reinvigorate Sims' representative chances after he had spent his first two years at the club largely as a middle player.

"At the back end of last year I played a lot of right edge because the game plan at the Dragons was to shift Frizz (Tyson Frizell) in the middle and vice-versa,'' he said.

"With Thommo (Joel Thompson) departing, there was a left-edge opportunity and I had played a lot of my footy on the left edge, so I just asked if I could have a crack at ripping in on the left side."

This time a "crack" proved to be much more positive for Sims and on Wednesday night Murphy will be a proud New South Welshman watching on, knowing how far Sims has come.

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