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Simpkins receives NRL lifeline

Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent‌‌, ‌‌‌NRL.com

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The appointment of Garth Brennan as coach has already paid off for one Titans player with utility forward Ryan Simpkins issued an NRL lifeline that will see him link back up with his former Panthers mentor.

For the past two years Simpkins has finished the Telstra Premiership with uncertainty surrounding his playing future and when he ruptured his ACL in the opening minutes of his 50th NRL game earlier this year, a return to his trade as a plumber looked increasingly likely.

One of the most valued members within the playing group for the selfless way in which he plays, the skill he possesses with ball in hand and the clean-up work he does in defence, Simpkins was waiting to see who Neil Henry's replacement would be before deciding his future and struck gold when Brennan was announced as the new head coach last month.

Now 29 years of age, Simpkins won a NSW Cup premiership in 2014 under Brennan when he was at the Panthers and although the final paperwork is still yet to be signed off on, he has returned to training with the club in order to continue the rehabilitation on his knee injury.

"I was looking at my options elsewhere and possibly going overseas but most probably staying on the coast and going back to work," Simpkins told NRL.com of his alternatives had the Titans not offered a new deal.

His next challenge is to complete the rehabilitation on the ACL injury he suffered in Round 10 against the Storm after becoming a regular member of the Titans' 17, then push for selection in Round 1 against the Raiders.

"The last time I did my knee it was roughly seven months before I was back to full training so it would be after Christmas definitely but I'd be doing a lot of the running stuff through the first month or two," Simpkins said of the recovery. "It's more the contact and sideways movement stuff [that takes time].

"As long as there's not too many setbacks I should be right by the start of February for the trials which will be nine months [since the injury].

"Hopefully I can just start progressing and when I start running I can continue progressing.

"Strength-wise it feels really good so hopefully it all goes smoothly."

A strong advocate for Brennan's head coaching claims, Simpkins believes the new coach's personality and ability to communicate with players will help to bring back a playing group that became splintered towards the back end of the 2017 season.

With Agnatius Paasi the latest player to leave the club after receiving a release to join the Warriors next season there has been a high turnover of talent on the Gold Coast with the likes of Brendan Elliott, Brenton Lawrence, Jai Arrow, Jack Stockwell and Jai Whitbread all reporting for their first week as a Titan this week.

It was every player's first chance to see how Brennan's style will transfer to the high-pressure environment of an NRL head coaching role but Simpkins is confident he is a man who will get the best out of his players.

"It will be interesting to see how that evolves as a first grade coach but you speak to any of the players that have played under him, they all say the same thing. He's a coach you want to play for," Simpkins said.

"He's passionate and not in it for the glory of the money or anything like that. He's in it because he genuinely enjoys doing it and you feel that he takes a genuine interest in you as a person and as a player.

"He's got a blow-up in him. He can blow up as good as any of them and when it's time to train and work he's all business but away from football I feel he tries to get to know his players and wants more of a relationship than just player and coach."