Jeff Simmonds – A remarkable man of courage and determination

When one meets a person of remarkable courage and determination, it is exceptional. Northern Sydney Welfare Officers Norm Pounder and Ken Vessey experienced that feeling again when they took their longstanding friend Jeff Simmonds (Men of League member no. 5,064) out for a drive and stop over at the friendly Alexandria Erskineville Bowling Club for a delicious Chinese meal as guests of the Club President, Barry Carroll.

Jeff was born in Castlecrag,Sydney and played his junior league days in the North Sydney Junior Rugby League competitions through to representing North Sydney in the President Cup competition before being graded with the North Sydney District Rugby League Club, playing many Third and Reserve Grade games as an elusive five-eight or halfback moving onto First Grade playing 10 games in 1964-65. 

At the age of 21 years in September 1965, whilst playing against South Sydney in the preliminary final, he suffered concussion. Subsequently, he went on an end of season game trip with the Club to Queensland, where he suffered further concussion and in an accidental fall he seriously fractured his spine close to his waistline, resulting in him becoming a paraplegic.

Whilst being treated at St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney he met Kevin Betts, a Remedial Gymnast from the Mt. Wilga Rehab Centre, Hornsby who encouraged Jeff to get back into sport and when he moved to Mt. Wilga Rehab Centre, Jeff was under Betts’ care and training. Subsequently, Jeff had tremendous success in backstroke and breaststroke swimming events, winning several Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at the 1968 Australian Paraplegic Games, 1968 Tel Aviv Paralympics and the 1970 Edinburgh Commonwealth Paraplegic Games.

Prior to his accident, he was employed in the printing industry and after the accident he became a valuable employee in many roles for years at the North Sydney Leagues Club. He was also the Club’s first Coaching Director and was Secretary for the Club’s Under 23’s team.

Over the years, Jeff became a very independent person and was able to drive a car but unfortunately in early 2016 his shoulders showed serious signs of wear. As a result, he underwent surgery and months of rehab and is no longer able to drive.

At this time, he and his loving wife Sandie are adjusting to these new circumstances and their varied lifestyle. The Northern Sydney Men of League Welfare Team are fortunate to have the use of a wheelchair access Men of League bus and we will ensure we take Jeff out on future outings and provide assistance in his transport needs.

This story leaves no doubt that Jeff is a “Remarkable Man of Courage and Determination” and we were delighted that he enjoyed the outing and lunch with us. Jeff, who supports the Men of League by his attendance at functions, was appreciative of the outing and wished the Men of League continued success.

by Ken Vessey
Welfare Coordinator Northern Sydney Men of League Committee

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