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Nice wing to it: Simonsson hungry to secure starting spot

Left or right wing - it doesn’t matter to Canberra’s Bailey Simonsson as long as he’s in the team from round one and stays there.

Simonsson burst onto the scene last season virtually from nowhere after making the move from sevens rugby union.

It didn’t take long for the Raiders and their rivals to realise what they had on their hands, as the 22-year-old averaged 119 metres in 21 games and crossed the stripe eight times in his debut year.

He was named Raiders co-rookie of the year and earned selection in the New Zealand side for Tests against Australia, England and Tonga.

But what Simonsson really wants from 2020 is a consistent spot in the Raiders’ backline.

“I played 21 games last year and I didn’t expect to play that many, so it was really great to be involved in all of those," he said.

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“But in saying that a lot of those were off the bench so I don’t think I really cemented myself in the side, going in and out of different positions and different roles in the team.

“This year my main goal is to lock down a starting spot and do my role and play well each week.”

Simonsson’s versatility was at times his downfall in 2019 in that it limited his ability to play one role.

Often wearing jersey numbers, 1, 2 or 14 meant the rising star was forced to adjust his game as needed.

With the departure of Jordan Rapana to Japanese rugby union, a spot on the right edge was there for the taking.

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However, Simonsson appears to be sticking to the left wing after the Raiders’ only trial match.

“I’ve been training outside Jarrod (Croker) all pre-season and that’s where I played in the trial,” Simonsson said.

“So hopefully I can get through the next couple of weeks of training and hopefully get the nod for round one.

“It all just depends on what (Ricky Stuart) Stick and the coaches want for the team dynamics. Nick (Cotric) has been training on the right with Curtis who has come in this year.

“They’ve formed a bit of a new combination so in terms of the team and long-term playing spots, it’s all up in the air. It just depends on who’s performing and if you are in the position you’ve been given then you’ll keep it week to week."

While Simonsson proved to be potent in attack, giving the Raiders another big body to bring the ball out of their own half, it’s his work without possession that he wants to perfect.

A tackling rate of 64 per cent last season means he won’t rest on his laurels.

“I’m still so new to the game and first grade so there’s a lot I need to work on,” Simonsson said.

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“I want to improve on my defence and my decision-making outside of Toots (Croker), and in attack I pride myself in getting busy and trying to help the team so that’s what I’ll be looking to do this year.”

While it appears he might not be taking Rapana's position, Simonsson said the former Raider star's words of wisdom will be ringing in his ears when he runs out for round one.

“I said last year how key Raps was for me being a winger and his advice to me,” he said.

“I always regarded him as the best winger in the comp, so for him to be there and to help me was huge.

“But I still remember everything he taught me, so I’ll take that on and use it this year and I have still got a guy like Jarrod who’s a legend of the game, inside me giving me pointers.”