Get to know Damien

After stints at St George Illawarra and Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs, Damien found a home at the South Sydney Rabbitohs and is now one of the game’s elite players.

A former beach sprinter, Damien’s trademark is his explosive speed off the mark which makes him a handful for rival teams to contain around the ruck.

He has now played more than 150 games for the Rabbitohs, 15 Origins for NSW and 4 Tests for the Kangaroos and at age 31, he still has plenty of years left at the elite level.

Off the field, Damien cherishes his young daughter Willow.

“The best thing about being a dad is watching my little princess grow up and teaching her new things and as long as she has a smile on her face I’m happy,” Damien said with a proud smile. “Sometimes I could be having a really bad day or a bad loss and I just want to see her and give her a cuddle as it put everything in perspective … it makes everything ok because to her I’m just daddy, her best friend who plays with her and her protector.”

QDo you find it hard spending time away from the family due to your football commitments?

AI find it very hard. Especially now Willow is more aware of what’s going on and asking me to come home when I can’t makes it really hard. 

QHow big an inspiration is Willow to your career, have you changed the way you go about your work since she was born?

ASince Willow has been born I’ve definitely noticed a change in how I go about things in life as now she is my reason why I do what I do . Where before it was about my family and myself , now my main reason why is to lead by example for Willow.

Q There have been lots of challenges in the last few years with Covid and I’m sure your family like many have had to deal with it and maybe missed the chance to see family on special occasions, share your life with loved ones etc……tell us about some of your personal experiences?

ACovid in 2020 brought many challenges to our family just like others . When Willow was only a couple months old the country went into lockdown and this meant family weren’t able to get to spend time with Willow. When the lockdown restrictions were slightly lifted, the NRL maintained its strong restrictions which meant no one was allowed at the house and family such as grandparents had to get to know Willow from over the fence.

With the NRL bubble still in place for the whole year and Origin at the end of the year I had to stay in a bubble post season before moving into a five week camp with the Blues which meant missing my daughter’s first birthday.

Covid in 2021 brought a whole new challenge, while in Origin camp for the last game we got the news the comp would be moved to Queensland’s and all teams relocated to Queensland and it was unknown whether family would be able to come up too. This possibly meant not seeing the family till the end of the year.

Luckily enough, families where relocated and after a tough 5 1/2 weeks and seeing my wife and daughter go through a hotel quarantine just so we could all be back together.

When we reunited in Queensland, it was one of the most special moments I’ll remember forever.

QOn game day, do you usually relax with the family, do you have a set routine?

AI do have a set routine but game day routine all depends on what day we play. For Thursday and Friday games this this involves Willow’s activities. After breakfast we will go and watch Willow’s dancing or swimming or gymnastics before I come back and jump in the pool to do exercises. After that I will jump on the roller where Willow will climb up an enjoy the ride but also have a stretch which lately she is starting to sit next to me and copy what I’m doing! 

QHas Willow taken a liking to any sports? 

AWillow at the moment has a busy schedule for a two-year-old! She loves her swimming, gymnastics and dancing and most ball games in the back yard such as kicking the footy off the tee or kicking the soccer ball around. I’m pretty keen to get a tennis racquet in her hand soon though … haha!

QDoes she enjoy watching you play footy and does she ever go to your training? 

AShe loves coming to my games and training and cheering me and the team on and I love having her there! I used to watch the other guys in my team with their kids at training before I had Willow and couldn’t wait until I was able to do that. Willow loves wearing her jerseys but with a tutu under it. Perfect combination! 

QDoes she know many of your teammates?

AOne thing about Willow which surprises everyone - especially in lockdown together last year - is how well she remembers everyone’s names! Not just naming the team but also the numbers they wear, like Daddy number 9 , Trell number 1! She also knows some of the staff at the club as well. Wayne Bennett and Willow had a special bond up there in Queensland last year and Willow even called him Pa which he loved! Her favourites at the moment are Campbell, Keaon, Lachy and Cam … who also has a barbie doll named after him!

QTell us about your daily family duties?

AI’m very lucky to have the best wife and mum to Willow but when I’m off we like to get out and about in the morning so showering and getting Willow ready for the day and breakfast is always a battle . Throughout the day whoever gets caught with the dirty nappy has to change it haha! At night time it’s bath time followed by dinner where we alternate who does one and who does the other. When it’s bed time I always read a text book or two to Willow before she goes to sleep. Her favourites are Noisy Farm, Dear Little Princess or Going on a Bear Hunt. 

QTell us about your wife Courtney?

AI’m very lucky to have the best wife who so understanding when it comes to my busy schedule and being away a lot. She is pregnant with our second child due any day now

QDo you have any memorable moments with her?

AAfter five weeks away in the State of Origin bubble of 2020 when we reunited she walked to me for the first time. Cuddling her on the field after my grand final loss last year, as soon as I could I wanted to get to her. The first time I got to take her on the field after a game after not being allowed to after two years of Covid restrictions. The first time she called me dad  and said I love you was also very special.  

Now lets hear from Courtney and Willow...

QHi Courtney, what's Damiens best asset as a dad?

ANo matter how full on or busy his schedule might be or no matter how sore after a game he always makes quality time for Willow he takes her for ice cream every Monday after daycare, he reads her favourite book to her every night and he will participate in every dance concert she performs at home and he tells her at least 20 times a day how much he loves her.

QWhat's something we don't know about Damien?

AHe runs a really good nail and hair salon in the comfort of our home for Willow!

QHi Willow, what do you love about Daddy?

AGetting ice cream and going to the park

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