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Healthy competition driving dummy-half success

They may have spent the past 12 months fighting for the number nine jersey, but Jacob Liddle and Jake Simpkin believe the competition has taken their games to new heights in 2021 — and their healthy rivalry has no signs of slowing down.

In fact, the two hookers are preparing to push each other to the limits in the upcoming pre-season.

“I think healthy competition drives the environment to big things,” Simpkin said.

“I think if Lids and I are biting at each other’s heels then it will go a long way to us being successful in that role.”

Simpkin has had the opportunity of starting at hooker on five occasions this season but has recently played second fiddle to starting dummy-half Liddle as the side’s bench utility.

“I’ve enjoyed the role this year — Lids has been starting and I’ve been coming on from the bench for last period of the game," the 19-year-old said.

“I’ve enjoyed getting the experience in the NRL and learning little things along the way.

Simpkin reflects on rookie NRL season

“Lids has been really good for me — I’ve really enjoyed sharing that role with him.”

Simpkin’s rookie season will come to an end following Sunday’s game against the Bulldogs, and although he’s had his up and downs throughout the campaign, he’s relished the opportunity of playing in the top grade.

“I’ve learnt a lot through the first season in first grade. It’s been very challenging. I’ve learnt a lot going into next year,” he said.

“The biggest thing I’ve learnt is staying concentrated at all times while on the field — especially in big games.

“There are little moments that if you switch off, it can really cost you. In NSW Cup, you can kind of get away with that, but in NRL you can’t get away from that. You’ve got to be switched on with everything you do.”

Starting hooker Liddle has also enjoyed playing alongside Simpkin throughout the season — and has plenty of praise towards his younger counterpart.

“I’m happy with how Jakey is going and he’s improving every week,” Liddle said.

“He’s like a sponge — he soaks everything up.

“He’s pushing me and I’m pushing him to get better. It’s pushed me to be more of a leader and I’ve been working on that.

“It’s been working well. Where the game is at, at the moment, with the game speed, that impact hooker coming off the bench is working for a few teams.”

Liddle pleased with injury-free season

Having overcome a number of previous knee problems, Liddle has had an injury-free season and will line-up for his 20th NRL game on Sunday.

Prior to this season, he had never played more than 13 games in a year since debuting in 2016.

“One of my goals was to stay on the field, so to get more games in a season than I’ve ever had is great,” he said.

“At the start of the season, I had the knee strapped up. I’ve now got a lot of freedom without all that stuff on.

"I'll take this season, but there's definitely a lot I can improve on. You can't go stale and not try and improve. I've set some goals for next year and I'll keep working on my game."

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