RUAN Sims has been a trailblazer for women in rugby league from the age of eight when she pulled on a pair of boots, headgear and shoulder pads and played as the only girl in a team in her hometown of Gerringong.
Today, she is a rugby league commentator for the Nine Network and ABC radio, and an ambassador for the NRL in the areas of mental health and domestic violence through the State of Mind and Voice Against Violence.
Her service to rugby league has seen her recognised with the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in the Queen's Birthday Honours.
Sims, who also works as a firefighter with Fire and Rescue NSW, said she was "blown away" by the OAM honour, describing it as "a huge, very lovely shock".
The involvement of girls and women in rugby league has exploded since she started in the local competition.
"It makes me very proud to have been part of the movement that has got to where it is today, and I hope to continue to help push it towards the future," she said.
"It's not just young girls I want to see involved in sport, but all kids, and particularly in their teenage years.
"Sport helps you in so many different ways and the longer we can keep young people involved, whether it is is in a team or as an individual, the better for them and for society."
Sims says she is "very passionate" about continuing involvement in various roles, including as a commentator, coach and in governance.
Sims is part of a footballing family.
They played backyard football with other neighbourhood kids, and the boys and Ruan joined the Gerringong Lions.
Girls were only allowed to play until they were 11, so Ruan turned to basketball before joining a women's rugby union team fielded by the Kiama Cows when she was 16.
She represented Australia and NSW in rugby union before switching to rugby league.
Sims was the first contracted NRL woman player when she was signed by the Sharks, but when they were not given a franchise licence to play in the women's premiership, joined the Roosters.
She retired as a player in 2019.
In the same year, Sims was a finalist in the top category of the 2019 NSW Women of the Year awards.
The program recognises remarkable women, who inspire in their careers, business or communities.
Other rugby league individuals to receive Queen's Birthday Honours were Ricky Stuart, Glenn Lazarus, former Newtown President Barry Vining, Barry Costa (Brothers Penrith), Peter Cox (Woden Valley Rams), Brian Gee (St Edwards) and Christopher Mahony.
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