He might only be 19 years of age, but new Wests Tigers recruit Tukimihia Simpkins says he's determined to make up for lost time after missing out on a full season of footy in 2020.
A rugby union standout earlier in his career, Simpkins had only played a handful of league games prior to his transition to the North Queensland Cowboys' full-time squad in 2020 — stepping up as a Development Player and eyeing off a potentially career-defining year after progressing through his first full NRL pre-season.
But with COVID-19 enforcing a shutdown of the Intrust Super Cup and Hastings-Deering Colts competitions in Queensland in 2020, Simpkins was suddenly left without a real avenue to continue his on-field development.
The imposing forward knows he wasn't the only player affected by the measures, either, with hundreds of players right across the league hit hard by the absence of any reserve-grade or junior development competitions throughout 2020.
For Simpkins, while the lack of competitive action was certainly felt, he was determined to continue his development with a good attitude.
"At the start, I was pretty gutted there was no footy," Simpkins admitted.
"I just learned to take it on and use it as a bit of a development year with the gym and being outside, training all year. I tried to learn a lot to help me.
"I'd played rugby union my whole life — since I was five of six — but I would only play in a few rugby league carnivals when I got the chance," he said.
"I got signed to the Cowboys when I was 15 and made the transition up.
"I would go over [to Townsville] each year for the December development camps but I struggled with the heat to begin with. When I moved properly, though, it was a bit easier and I settled in there pretty quick once I went there."
The boys are back for 2021!
Having not met Michael Maguire face-to-face, Simpkins revealed he still had plenty to do with the coach as he looked to begin his journey to Sydney and the NRL.
"We had a few Zoom calls when I was in Townsville and I really liked the vision he had for the club and for me," he said.
"It made me really excited to want to be here at the club.
"I actually didn't know any of the boys before today, but they've welcomed me in and made be feel a part of the team which I've appreciated.
I really want to get in the Wests Tigers colours now and make my debut.Tuki Simpkins
"I want to get in that jersey and get in the game."