Promoted from the development squad to the Top 30 this season, Wests Tigers young gun Jake Simpkin is living his childhood dream.
At the age of 19, Simpkin is still eligible to play in the Jersey Flegg competition for a couple of seasons, but his early career success has seen him rocket into Wests Tigers' top squad and competing for an NRL debut in 2021.
A highly-rated junior representative hooker, Simpkin has already tasted success in his short career, having helped Wynnum-Manly reach the Grand Final in the Hastings Deering Colts competition in 2019. He has also represented Queensland throughout the junior grades and featured in junior triumphs for the Maroons.
“I always been a footy fan — our whole household was — so to be now a part of an NRL team’s Top 30 squad is a dream come true,” Simpkin said.
“I enjoyed being in the Development squad and it was a great opportunity to train alongside so many great players. I learnt off people like Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks which I think really helped me get more out of those early years.
“At first it was a bit of a ‘wow’. I came in for my first season and saw all of the NRL players and then got the opportunity to train with them, day in, day out. It was pretty special and it was very humbling as well.
“Now moving into the top 30, I’ve got different goals and ambitions for the year ahead.”
The biggest of those goals: getting a game in the NRL.
“I’ve always dreamt of playing in the NRL. If I got that opportunity, I’d take it with both hands,” the young hooker said.
“It would mean so much to me if I got to make my debut but I know I need to remain patient and wait for the right opportunity.”
With an NRL contract in his hand, Simpkin understands there will be extra attention that comes with that – although he’s remaining grounded.
“I try not to read into it. I know I’ve got to let my training and my actions do the speaking,” he said.
“I know there’s going to be more media attention and that’s what comes with being a footy player, but I’ve got good people around me.
“I think back that played all the representative sides when I was growing up so I sort of know what it’s like to play in big games but the NRL is a much bigger step.”
With several key arrivals this year such as Daine Laurie, James Roberts, Joe Ofahengaue, James Tamou and Stefano Utoikamanu, Simpkin said he was excited to be part of a club heading in the right direction on and off the field.
“I think we’re in for a big year and we’ve got a big future ahead of us," he said.
I think we’re building something pretty special at the club and I’m excited to be a part of it.Wests Tigers hooker Jake Simpkin
“We’ve spoken about leaving no stone unturned and I think we can have a special year.”
While focused on making an impact on field, the talented young rake is also applying his trade off it with his time in the books.
“I’ve been studying sports exercise science for a while now part-time," he said.
"I've been doing it when I'm not at training and it's enjoyable.
"It's been good to get my mind away from footy [and] I think it's pretty important to have something else to focus on."