Simpkins goes out on a high
SEAGULLS favourite Ryan Simpkins' hopes to farewell the Tweed Heads Seagulls with an Intrust Super Cup premiership, having signed with the Penrith Panthers for 2012.
His departure will bring a mix of joy and sadness to the club, because although the tireless back-rower deserves every opportunity that comes his way, he is a favourite with the club's fans and his teammates.
Simpkins will pack his bags and head for the foot of the Blue Mountains at season's end in the search for an NRL jersey, after having limited opportunities at the Gold Coast Titans in recent years.
The 2008 Titans NYC captain has been tantalisingly close to playing NRL, but just couldn't crack the Titans line-up, so is hoping that elusive first grade jersey will come at the Panthers.
He joins Shannon Walker (rugby 7s), Josh Starling (Brisbane Broncos) and Will Matthews (St George Illawarra) to farewell the Seagulls in 2011 - and there might be more, thanks to the side's head-turning season.
"It is something I have been working towards for a few years now, to try to get an opportunity, and it is exciting to finally get a chance," Simpkins said.
Seagulls coach Ben Anderson was proud of his charge, and wouldn't begrudge anyone the opportunity to take the next step in their career.
"It is sad to see him go, but at the same time all the boys are rapt for him. That is what we are all about here, trying to create that environment for guys to take that next step, and Ryan really deserves it," Anderson said.
But the job isn't done with the Seagulls yet this season, and fans will hopefully see plenty more of "Mr Perpetual Motion" over the Intrust Super Cup finals series, which starts tomorrow at Piggabeen Sports, when the Seagulls take on Wynnum Manly.
The Seagulls enter the finals series as minor premiers, having lost just one regular season game and Simpkins would love to go on and win a farewell premiership, after winning one with the club's Colts side in 2007 - not that he didn't want it badly before.
"I probably don't need any extra incentive. It is something we have been trying to do for the past three years. It would be a great way to finish my time with Tweed, and we will just take it from this weekend, and hopefully keep playing good footy."
The side's defence has been all but impenetrable this year, and defence is a big part of Simpkins' game.
"I have always tried to play keeping in mind trying not to miss tackles. If everyone in the team misses no tackles it is pretty hard to beat us," he said.
"It has always been a focus of mine and the team as whole has really stepped it up. We've really focused and defended really well as team.
"Everyone keeps turning out for each other, and if someone makes a mistake we rally round to help.
"It makes us really hard to crack as a team."
Simpkins said Anderson had really hit his straps as a coach in his second year in the job.
He said stability in the club had played a significant role in this year's record-breaking season.
"It is our second year now with Benny as coach, and in the few years before that we had a bit of turnover in the coaching staff and players," he said.
"Benny has put in a bit of structure over the past two years and it is working pretty well. That is probably the one big difference at the club - most of the players are the same. There is a bit of stability and a lot of understanding about how we want to play the game."
The Seagulls are the only senior outfit Simpkins has played for, having come up through the colts after playing his juniors at Currumbin.
"I have always enjoyed playing at the Seagulls, with all the people down there. They are all a really good bunch of fellas. It will be sad to not be playing for them any more, but hopefully this move will pay off. I have never lived anywhere else, so it will be exciting to get a bit of a change."
In 2007, the club's seniors and colts won premierships, and with the seniors minor premiers, and the colts also in finals contention, having finished third, it could happen again.
All the senior finals will be played tomorrow, with Souths Logan Magpies (3rd) taking on Redcliffe Dolphins (4th), and Northern Pride (2nd) clashing with Ipswich Jets (5th).
The Seagulls Colts take on Burleigh before the main game at Piggabeen tomorrow.