Ryan Simpkins’ return to the Titans didn’t go as planned in 2015 with bad luck striking the Gold Coast junior in the round seven clash with his former club Penrith and ending what was shaping into a promising season.
The back-rower injured his knee in a tackle with scans revealing he would require a knee reconstruction and would have to wait until 2016 to pull on a Titans jersey again.
The inaugural Titans under-20s captain in 2008, Simpkins returned to the Titans after three seasons with the Panthers where he won a NSW Cup premiership and was their reserve grade player of the year.
With his father Robert being an inaugural player with the Giants in 1988, Ryan became the first second-generation Gold Coast player in the ARL/NRL competition to play first grade.
And like his father, he quickly proved a model club man and a real grafter who is respected by teammates for doing the valuable work on and off the field that may go unnoticed by some. And he also showed to be a smart, skillful player in attack as much as a workhorse in defence.
Having strung together six games in a row and quickly establishing himself as a vital member of Neil Henry’s squad after debuting in round two, Simpkins said the injury was challenging to overcome given his promising start to the year.
“I think ‘frustrating’ would be the best word to describe it,” he said. “It was a pretty tough pre-season but I got through that alright. I got in the side for round two and managed to hold my spot for a few weeks and I felt like I was playing better each game and the team was going well, so it was definitely frustrating.”
With a relatively injury-free career until then, Simpkins was faced with nine months on the sidelines, a prospect the Tugun junior said he found daunting to begin with.
“I’d had a few minor surgeries before this injury, but never a long term injury so it was a bit overwhelming at the beginning,” the former Palm Beach Currumbin student said.
“It’s the first major knee or shoulder injury I’ve ever had. One positive was that the way the injury happened was probably down to bad luck more than a weakness in the knee as such, so hopefully it comes back fine.”
Unfortunately for the Titans Simpkins was joined by a host of other injured players throughout the season, with the club suffering a bad run with injuries. His absence was perhaps under-estimated as Kane Elgey, Aidan Sezer, Beau Falloon and the suspended Greg Bird joined him in the grandstand as spectators for long periods by the halfway mark of the season.
Simpkins said it was difficult for his teammates to establish any continuity and consistency with so many players in and out of the side.
“We definitely surprised a few people at the beginning of the year but we got few injuries and suspensions that didn’t help and we went through a couple of tough periods there, it was just frustrating to watch,” he said.
“The way we started the season, I felt like if we’d been able to keep most of our players healthy it would have allowed us to build on that promising start a bit more.
“But when you get lots of injuries it doesn’t let you build on what you’re doing and that made it hard. It was great to see the way the boys finished the year off though, that was definitely a positive sign for next year.”
Unlike most players, Simpkins is looking forward to pre-season. The beginning of the off-season will coincide with the six-month mark in his rehab, meaning the back-rower will be able to participate in most of the conditioning.
“November will be six months post-operation, so I’ll be close to being able to do most of the running and conditioning stuff soon after that,” he said.
“I have to confirm it with the physio and surgeon and see what they recommend but nine months is the aim to be back to 100 per cent so the only thing I might miss out on will be the contact work.”
As for his main goal in 2016, Simpkins is keeping it simple.
“Stay on the field. If I stay injury free I feel like I can have a good year, I think I can offer something to the team.”
RYAN SIMPKINS’S 2015 SEASON
Avg. mins: 43
Avg. runs per game: 6.5
Avg. metres per game: 55
Avg. tackles: 24
Career stats: Games – 33; tries – 3.