Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire says one of the best parts about being a coach is telling a rookie that they’re going to make their first grade debut.
That’s what he got to do earlier this week when he broke the news to Jake Simpkin that the youngster was going to start at hooker against South Sydney on Saturday evening.
The 19-year-old will become Wests Tigers player #242 when he takes to the field at Stadium Australia against the Rabbitohs.
Following a disappointing result in Round 5, Maguire said his players have responded positively at training and have been boosted by the inclusion of Simpkin in the team.
“They’re the best conversations you can have – telling a young man that he has the opportunity to play,” Maguire said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Jake have his debut. He’s been playing really well and he deserves it … it’s an opportunity for him to lead the team around the park.
“He’s put a lot of work in. Last year was an unusual one with no footy but he went away and worked on himself.
“He’s developed his body and has a great maturity about how he plays his footy.”
The young dummy-half has been the standout player for Western Suburbs Magpies in reserve grade so far this year — scoring six tries in five games — to sit atop the try-scoring chart.
He also leads the competition in linebreaks (seven), dummy-half runs (31), tackles (213) and total touches (460).
“Jake’s start of the year has been very impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing him get in there amongst the boys,” the coach said.
“The players around him are really excited to have him out there.
“He can come in with an open mind and just play. He’s been performing well and getting the boys around the park — that’s all I can ask of him.”
When asked what type of player Simpkin is, Maguire said he has similarities to a former Queensland and Australia hooker.
“He reminds me a bit of Steve Walters — back in the day in the early 1990s,” Maguire said.
“I think he’ll develop his own and how he goes about it. He’s a tough kid and I’m looking forward to having him out there.”
Wests Tigers will be aiming for their second win of the season when they face Wayne Bennett’s men — who have won four-straight games.
Tamou talks leadership and effort areas as the team looks to bounce back
“The boys need to turn it around fast. We showed positive signs of what we’re capable of in the second half and we need to see more of that this week,’ Maguire said.
“We need to be positive with what we want to do tomorrow. They’ve trained well. The players have owed it.
“We need to play our style of footy and need to let our actions do the talking."
Match: Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers
Round 6 -
Venue: Stadium Australia, Sydney