Verity Simmons during the ANL in 2011. PHOTO: DAVID CALLOW
Verity Simmons during the ANL in 2011. PHOTO: DAVID CALLOW

Simmons’ multi-sporting prowess evident from early age

Simmons' sporting talent was evident across many disciplines but it was in netball that she made her mark.

When reflecting on her rise through the ranks, Simmons refers to it as merely following the pathway - playing for her school, the Clarence Valley, North Coast, New South Wales and, finally, Australian Schoolgirls, which she accomplished when she was 15.

"I remember travelling to New Zealand for my first Aussie schools game and winning by one in extra time in the grand final against NZ," Simmons said.

"I've got family who live over there so everyone came over.

"I still remember it to this day. It was awesome."

Soon afterwards, Simmons enrolled at the New South Wales Institute of Sport at Newcastle and Sydney to further her netball career.

After more than a year travelling to and from Grafton, Simmons decided to leave the Clarence Valley for Newcastle, cutting out much of the travel which had become a burden on her family.

It was during this time Simmons was hit by two major setbacks: a shoulder reconstruction which would keep her off the court for six months, and a diagnosis of type one diabetes.

"I didn't really want to leave Grafton to be honest - leaving my home and my family, and I love the town," Simmons said.

"I guess it's just something you have to do if you want to get there.

"The hardest part was having the shoulder reconstruction when I was in Newcastle, so being out of netball for six months and getting diagnosed with diabetes at the same time. It was the biggest hurdle.

"When you look back now you think if you can get through that, you can just keep pushing."

An impressive second year on the court at Newcastle saw an opportunity at the Australian Institute of Sport open for Simmons, who packed her bags again for a two-year stint at Canberra.

There she juggled her HSC with full-time sport, fitting three training sessions into her busy school schedule.

The experience almost broke the-then 17-year-old but it also opened a door to the ANZ Championship.

"I was the only one in the team still doing school," Simmons said.

"I would go to training in the morning, go to school, come back on my lunch break and have a lunch break session, finish school then have training in the afternoon.

"The first year was a bit of a struggle for me and my coach was like 'it's either do or die. If you don't pick up your act and get yourself organised, you're out'. It was a good wake-up call."

Then-Australian coach Norma Plummer was based at the AIS during that time, keeping an eye on the team and their development.

At the end of the season she called Simmons into her office, with an offer to join her at West Coast Fever the following season.

"I thought I was in trouble for something," Simmons said.

"When she turned around and said she wanted me there I was blown away. It was my first offer and I took it and ran."

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