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Rising star Simonsson's journey from rugby to Raiders

Three years ago Bailey Simonsson was just another face in the crowd at the Sydney nursery of the 15-man code Newington College.

There he and the rest of his mates watched the Canberra Raiders of 2016 tear sides apart in the NRL with the skillful, cavalier attitude that made them one of the most destructive and attractive teams to watch.

Names like Rapana and Leilua were uttered just as quickly as any rugby union star of the day.

Fast forward and now Simonsson calls many Raiders of that 2016 season teammates and has now played a big role early to help his side defeat Melbourne in week one of the finals.

Seemingly destined for a late-game role, Simonsson was forced to start and opened the scoring after the bizarre eye injury to Joey Leilua due to pre-game fireworks.

Now Simonsson and the rest of the Raiders are 80 minutes away from the grand final, and the budding youngster hopes to do his part to help the side eclipse their preliminary final loss in 2016.

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"I actually watched the '16 season quite closely because I liked how they played and they were having a great season," Simonsson told

"I was still at school, playing rugby, and I remember watching them playing down in Melbourne and it was a real bummer they got knocked out because I was hoping they could go all the way.

"I loved watching Rapa and BJ, they both had a heck of a season and the whole side was throwing it around and playing some entertaining footy.

"So, it was cool to watch and a lot of people I knew at the time loved watching them."

Signed late in the pre-season by the club, most knew of Simonsson's rugby pedigree but did not know if those natural skills could be translated to the NRL level.

If did not take long for those that matter at the club to see the 21-year-old was special and the Raiders had found another diamond in the rough.

With Leilua out for much of the season due to a neck injury, Nick Cotric slotted into right centre allowing Simonsson extended time on the left wing.

There he's formed a potent combination with co-captain Jarrod Croker, who has been impressed by the maturity of Simonsson, saying previously this season he's one of the best communicators during a game for his age he's seen.

"It's really humbling coming from somebody like Tooter (Croker), he's a legend at the club," Simonsson said.

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"But when I'm out on the field I've always been told your talk and communication is really important and being new I can't be shy and I have to still keep doing my part for the team."

Simonsson's versatility has been further tested in the back end of the season having come off the bench and playing at fullback in the round 25 loss to New Zealand.

However, wise beyond his 21 years and just thankful to be playing alongside some of his heroes, Simonsson has shown a remarkable ability to adapt to what's needed of him.

"It's sort of been that way the whole year if I'm honest, with player's being injured and suspensions so my role had changed a lot throughout the year," he said.

"As I've always said, I'm just happy to be in the team no matter what my role is.

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"It was unreal playing fullback (against the Warriors), that's my favourite spot to play.

"In terms of the different role it's a lot more organising you've got to do as a fullback in defence, but the boys helped me out throughout the week and I was pretty confident and comfortable, and I knew I just had to nail my role for the team."

His versatility and x-factor late in a game will again be called on in week three of the finals, with Canberra coach Ricky Stuart naming Simonsson in the 14 jersey.

"It's a whole new competition now," he said.

"It's important for us to forget about whatever has happened up until now, good and bad, and get started on the finals."


Acknowledgement of Country

Canberra Raiders respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.