True Blue Brett Kimmorley has relived some of the toughest moments of his Rugby League career and personal life – including the loss of his wife Sharnie to cancer in 2017 – as part of a pep talk for the game’s officials on handling adversity.
Kimmorley spoke to 46 NSWRL referees and officials at Milson Island, located 60 minutes north of Sydney on the Hawkesbury River, during a three-day camp that included fitness sessions, cross-section training and even an ‘Amazing Race’ challenge.
“I shared some stories that were hopefully helpful on how to cope with things and gain confidence, how to back yourself and how to trust yourself,” Kimmorley told NSWRL.com.au
“A lot of it related to sport and then the snapshot at the end was the adversity you handle in sport is also the same adversity you handle in life.
“We cope with it a lot better in life than we do with in sport, or we cope it with it a lot better in sport than we do in life.”
Kimmorley, who played 307 games across six clubs before retiring at the end of 2010, experienced plenty of highs during his decorated career including representing NSW and Australia and winning a premiership at Melbourne Storm in 1999.
But the former halfback also had his fair share of lows, including throwing an intercept pass in game one of the 2005 series that led to a Queensland try and saw him dropped from the team in favour of Andrew Johns for the remaining two matches.
“I was playing totally full of confidence in what was in front of me, eyes up, then made the biggest mistake of my career in a game that’s watched by three-and-a-half million people,” Kimmorley said.
“The doubt from that saw me not throw a ball long because of fear, and then I got to the off season and couldn’t wait to get away from football.
“But I had a holiday, I freshened up and came back and trained hard and built my confidence again. I got an opportunity to play again and the difference was I lost that fear of failing.”
Kimmorley also shared the heartbreak he suffered when his wife and childhood sweetheart Sharnie passed away from brain cancer in 2017, leaving him to raise his four young daughters on his own while also juggling a media and coaching pathways career.
“My biggest challenge has been what happened nearly two years ago,” Kimmorley said.
“What I’ve been able to learn from having this resilience, being able to deal with it, having to get better and how to keep moving forward in a way.
“You’ve got to look after the kids, you’ve got to make sure they’re going good, you’ve got to battle every day and you still stuff up with them. And you go, ‘You know what? I’ll be better tomorrow’.
“What I learned through sport molded my career. What I’ve learned in my career is basically molding my life.”
NSWRL Referees High Performance Manager Stuart Raper said Kimmorley’s inspiring talk had hit the mark and the three-day camp had been a great way to start the season.
“It was a great way to start our year off bringing them all together,” Raper said.
“When we go into game time they don’t see each other that much like a footy team does, so this is a really good time for them to share all our experiences and what each other goes through on a week-to-week basis and just get to know each other which is great.”