Challenge Sport

Intimidation won’t alter lifestyle

David Simmons
April 29 2013 - David Simmons breaks from the Paramatta Eels defence in a round 7 match in Penrith

Tough and intimidating on the field, Australian rugby league star David Simmons battled to reconcile his faith with sporting culture before a teammate's bold confession prompted him to take a stand.

Predominantly interested in soccer during his childhood, David made the switch in his late teens to rugby league, playing for the Cronulla Sharks from 2003 to 2010.

He then signed a two-year contract with the Penrith Panthers and later received the Dally M Award as the highest try scorer of 2013.

Sport is his passion but David openly confesses: "God is the greatest pleasure you can have in life. I can be more satisfied in knowing Jesus than in doing well in my sport."

This life decision to become a follower of Jesus occurred during Year 10 at a church youth camp.

David remembers hearing the speaker talk about man's rebellion against God, Jesus' death and resurrection, and the choice that lay in front of him: choose to follow Jesus and inherit eternal life or continue living life his way and die separated from God forever.

David struggles
David struggles against three Paramatta players in a R. 12 match in Sydney on May 30, 2014

"It became clear to me then that I didn't have a choice, I had to give my life to Jesus. I knew it was the best way and the only way to live," David recalls.

At first, he was reluctant to open up about his decision to follow Christ in fear of ridicule.

"I sort of kept it to myself at the beginning," he says. "I just prayed to God on my own and gradually over the next few weeks I told the leaders, I told my friends, and so it just went around."

But when he first began playing for the Sharks the athlete was again unsure of how to share his faith.

"I was still a young Christian and was probably a bit intimidated by all these older guys," he explains.

He found inspiration in fellow Sharks player Jason Stevens, also a Christian, who had just recently announced he wanted to be celibate until marriage.

It was a big deal in the rugby league and Jason was callously mocked and teased for his decision.

“The best way to love people is to be there for them”David observed with great admiration the way his teammate handled the criticism.

"He still continued to love people even though they were having a go at him. He was a great mentor for me and I really thank God that he was there," he says.

"I think it was a real and great witness because people saw that he loved God and the choices that he made were not hard for him because obedience [to God] for him was something that was easy," David says.

He found it beneficial to have a role model such as Jason who could enjoy life as a Christian and could still stand strong against peer-pressure and ridicule.

David Simmons scores
May 18 2014 - Panthers winger David Simmons scores a try against the Canberra Raiders in Canberra

Gradually, David understood his own role in representing God as an ambassador for Jesus on the sporting field.

Now, he tries to be a reflection of God's love and a good example of what it means to be a Christian despite intimidation and pressure to conform to the sporting culture around him.

And though he has suffered setbacks in his sporting career due to several shoulder and knee injuries, the latter keeping him out of many 2014 games, David's faith always pulls him through those difficult times.

"Throughout my career I've had a few injuries and it's always tough when things like that happen," he says. "But I've come to realise over the years that all these things are part of God's plan. I can have a peaceful life knowing that God is in control."

David has even come to see benefits in the face of injury, taking the opportunity to spend more time with his wife and four children.

"You learn how to deal with setbacks. You learn a bit of humility," he says. "So I just take [injuries] as they come."

David says his beliefs also help him bring comfort and encouragement to other team members and explains that, "the best way to love people is to be there for them."

"Being a footy player is definitely something God put in place and I can see He is doing a lot of good there. I don't want to turn away from it," he concludes. "I trust God and whatever He has in store for me and my family."

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