A bulked-up Bailey Simonsson is ready to make a Canberra Raiders wing spot his own in the 2021 NRL season after a shoulder injury cut short his 2020 campaign.
He starts the year tipping the scales at 97kg, five kilos heavier than his playing weight last year, with his focus over pre-season tacking on some mass.
“After my surgery one of my goals was to put a bit of weight on,” he said.
“I managed to do that which was handy, obviously having those carries out of your back end you need a bit of size running into the middle there, you cop some big shots.”
Following the departure of Nick Cotric, Simonsson is ready to seize the opportunity to make a wing spot his own and expects to start the season on the right edge.
“I don’t mind playing either side, I think I’ll be playing on the right to start, I’ve trained mostly over the pre-season on the right side so that’s where I’m expecting to play anyway.
“My first season I floated around a bit, and last year I was floating around a bit too … but my goal has always been to lock down a spot.
“That’s a big motivation for me, to put my best foot forward and lock down my spot in the team and then just be contributing each week.”
Following his season-ending shoulder injury against the Storm at GIO Stadium in round 9 last year, Simonsson underwent surgery in July, then spent the rest of the 2020 season rehabbing before recommencing contact work midway through pre-season.
“It’s great to watch the boys doing so well, but naturally with a competitive nature you want to be out there doing it,” he said.
“At times it was tough to watch from the sidelines, but we had a pretty good group in rehab.”
By the time the trial match against the Roosters came around on 27 February, Simonsson was itching to play and ended up spending 55 minutes on the paddock.
“It’s been nine months since I had the surgery. I was just so excited to get out there and play footy again,” he said.
“I haven’t played for a long time, so specifically on the weekend (27 February) I just tried to really do my role; carry the ball well, make my tackles.”
Aged 23 with 28 NRL games to his name, Simonsson is the most experienced of a young brigade of emerging Raiders outside backs that include Semi Valemi, Harley Smith-Shields, Matt Timoko and young Xavier Savage.
Simonsson said having such depth creates a competitive culture that “brings out the best performances in everyone”.
“In terms of backline depth, we’re in a pretty good position,” he said.
“All those boys have been training the house down and whoever gets that jump, you’re going to have to be playing good footy to hold onto a spot.”
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