GRIDIRON: Newcastle resident Lee Clay is about as tough as they come when it comes to country footballers ... but he is adamant his wife is tougher - at football.
Clay represented Australia on a gridiron tour to the US in 1988, and excelled at rugby union, league and soccer.
His wife Tammy is also highly talented at gridiron, rugby union and league.
Tammy, 41, is a key member of the New South Wales gridiron team.
Her daughter Candice, 21, is also part of that team.
And while it lost a match convincingly to Queensland on the weekend, Tammy's story of persistence is a remarkable one.
She was advised to never play football again - damaging a nerve column in her neck in 2007, after packing down in the front row of a rugby scrum.
But she made a successful return just five weeks later, and also played on after breaking her wrist in the grand final, or 'Opal Bowl', of last season's NSW women's gridiron club competition.
There have been serious knee, shoulder, ankle and foot injuries too.
"I've been injured head to toe," Tammy, who grew up near Macksville on the Mid North Coast of New South Wales, told APN with a laugh.
That is why Lee beams with pride when you ask him about his wife's life in football, while also raising three kids.
He won't admit it, but Lee helped blaze a trail for gridiron in Australia by touring the US and Europe in 1988, when the sport was still in its infant stages in this country.
"People ask me how I feel when I see my wife has achieved more in football than I have," he said.
"And I just say 'very proud'.
"She's not as tough as me - she's tougher."
Then you ask Lee about what it feels like to see his wife play representative football together with his daughter in not only gridiron, but rugby union and rugby league, and tears form in his eyes.
"I just stand back and applaud - I can't put into words how proud of them I am," he said.
Candice, who has represented NSW alongside Tammy in gridiron, rugby league and rugby union, and played for the women Indigenous All Stars in league, said her mum has always got her back on the footy field.
"She's always been there for me - even after she was told she shouldn't play football anymore; she's still running around now," Candice said.
Tammy, in her 14th year playing rugby union, and Candice, get some of their persistence and determination off Lee's mother, Judy.
Like the two in gridiron, Judy blazed a trail for women in soccer.
She was Tamworth's first ever female soccer coach while Lee was growing up in the regional NSW town.
"My mum was a very formidable soccer coach in the 1970s at a time when only dads were seen as the right people to do the job," Lee said.
"She's very proud that those two have gone so far in football, and together."
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