David Klemmer - NRL - AthletesVoice
David Klemmer - NRL - AthletesVoice


I knew I’d be the best dad

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I knew I’d be the best dad


It’s weird being in camp. I love being around the NSW boys, they’re a great bunch of blokes, but I hate being away from my kids.


The first couple of days are OK, but I’m a big cuddler so I love curling up with them on the lounge at home and watching a movie. I miss that.


I’m always doing something with them. Running around after them, playing footy in the backyard, stirring them up somehow. It feels strange when they’re not around.


It’s great that we break camp on Friday afternoon and come back on Sunday morning. I headed straight back to Warners Bay to spend the time with my wife, Chloe, and our three boys – Cooper (six), Jaxon (four) and David (two).



Being a father is very important to me. I don’t take the responsibility lightly. You can’t make the decision to start bringing kids into the world when you and your partner are still teenagers yourselves unless you’re 100 per cent sure it’s what you really want to do.


It’s hard to imagine life without them now. I reckon I’d be lost. They’ve had an enormously positive effect on me, as I know I’ve had on them and will continue to have. Knowing I’ve got to provide for them keeps me in line. I’m very strict on myself.


I’m only 25, but I’m one of the most experienced Origin players in the NSW team. Someone pointed out to me that Josh Morris is the most experienced with 14 games and that myself and Boyd Cordner are next, with 12 each.


There are a couple of ways I can use my experience – in footy and in life – to help the guys who have only played a few Origin games and the five who will be making their debuts.


I get them on the field after big games. I want them to experience all those special moments with me. I want them to meet all of the boys and enjoy being a part of that environment.


I try to be as relaxed as possible and not stressed around them in camp. They’ve already got enough nerves and the weight of people’s expectations on them.


I just tell them, ‘Don’t play the game too soon in your head, you’ll just wear yourself out’. The key is to make sure every day in training is a good day, prepare very well, and then probably on Tuesday night start getting mentally ready for the big game.


The worst thing I could do is be on edge around them. Then they’re going to think, ‘What’s with this big bloke? He’s supposed to have experience’. You’ve got to keep it nice and calm and stay relaxed.


On the field, I just try to do my job. Freddie as coach is very clear on what he wants from me – make my tackles and runs and do all the little one percenters. He’s big on the one percenters. That’s what wins football games. Do that and all the fancy stuff will come off the back of it.


We’ve got a great forward pack full of guys like Boydie, Tyson Frizell, Jake Trbojevic and myself who have been around the Origin and Test arenas for a while now. We enjoy playing together. Those guys are great at leading the way for the rest of the side.



People ask me if I’m a team leader. I like to lead by example when the game’s at its toughest. Make that big hit-up, that big tackle. If that’s being a team leader, then, yeah, I guess I am.


I want to make my kids proud of me. That’s what my footy’s all about – what my life is all about. Everything I do is for my family, so I’m never short of motivation. It’s never far away. If I’m not with them, all I have to do is think of them.


You tend not to think outside the team when you first start getting serious about footy, but eventually you realise there are other things to consider.


I’m always doing something with them. Running around after them, playing footy in the backyard, stirring them up somehow. It feels strange when they’re not around.


It wasn’t some snap decision when Chloe and I decided to have kids at a young age. I couldn’t have been surer that I wanted to be a father, but more than that I wanted to be a really good dad and I was convinced that I would be.


Chloe and I were in the same year at Westfields Sports High when we started going out together and we talked about what we wanted to do. We were very clear about it. Chloe was a promising netballer and she put that aside to become a mother.


I knew I’d be putting a lot of pressure on myself to stand up to the responsibility of being a young father. I knew that while I was a promising player there were no guarantees with a footy career. Things can go wrong – injuries, whatever. I knew kids were expensive to bring up.


But none of that stuff fazed me. I always knew I would support my family somehow and always work hard for them. I knew I’d be the best dad no matter what. I realised I had to pull my head in and learn pretty quickly how to be a role model for them. I had to grow up really fast, but I did it.


I wanted my kids to be able to share in and enjoy what I did for a living and a footballer’s career is not that long. A 10-year career in first-grade in the NRL is huge. Most blokes are lucky to get five years.


Chloe and I had our first child when we were both 19. A couple of years later the second one, and a couple of years after that the third. We wanted to keep them fairly close in age so they could grow up together being best mates as well as brothers.



I didn’t want to wait until I’d finished playing and was in my 30s to have kids – I wanted them to experience my career with me and Chloe.


Chloe brings them down to training if it’s a late-afternoon session. They come to all of Newcastle’s home games and most in Sydney as well. They’ll up be up in Brisbane for Origin I. They spend time in the sheds at games. They drop in at representative training camps.


I get them on the field after big games. I want them to experience all those special moments with me. I want them to meet all of the boys and enjoy being a part of that environment.


You never know how long you’ve got left in the game, so every time opportunities have come up I’ve tried to make memories for my kids.


I’ve got many photos of them with great players, including Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston. Future Immortals. It’s funny, right now they just think they’re dad’s mates he plays footy with. Ten years from now, we’ll be able to look back and the kids will realise how special those memories are.


Cooper’s got a fair grasp on what I do and where I’m at in the game. He loves his footy. I watch most of the games on the weekend and he watches them with me. He’s started playing footy for Valentine Devils, the club near home.



Jaxon’s not old enough to play yet, but he trains with Cooper’s team and he can’t wait to play next year. He’s upset that he can’t play now. He’s starting to pick up on where I fit in, but at the moment he just thinks everyone plays footy. David just runs around after everybody and has fun.


I’m trying to be the best role model for my kids and not stuff-up, because everything I do affects them.


When the other kids come up to me saying, ‘Go the Knights’, I make sure I shake the hand of every one of them and that they walk away happy. I like my kids to see that. I try to teach them respect. I just want them to be happy and have the best chance in life.




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