Simonsson's career has Sticky start, times two

Paul Simonsson still remembers the role Ricky Stuart played in ending his North Sydney debut in heartache.

But 28 years later, the Canberra Raiders coach will hand his son Bailey a dream NRL debut.

Bailey Simonsson will make his NRL debut and follow in his father Paul's footsteps. Photo: Raiders Media

Bailey Simonsson will make his NRL debut and follow in his father Paul's footsteps. Photo: Raiders Media

Bailey Simonsson was named on the Raiders wing, covering for the injured Jordan Rapana and Michael Oldfield, in their season opener against the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

There are similarities between his career and his father's, although Paul says his son is a much better version.

They both were outside backs, have both spent time in the All Blacks system and as of Sunday will both have played rugby league first grade.

Paul still holds the record for most tries scored on debut by an All Black - four against Japan back in 1987.

But it's another record that ties him with Stuart.

On debut for the North Sydney Bears in the opening round of the 1991 season, Paul turned to field Stuart's first kick.

"Funnily enough, I was a massive Canberra Raiders fan having watched the '89 grand final," Paul said.

"I played all the trial games, made North Sydney first-grade side and played against the Canberra Raiders on North Sydney Oval.

Paul Simonsson on debut in the All Blacks' 94-0 victory over Japan. Photo: Reuter

Paul Simonsson on debut in the All Blacks' 94-0 victory over Japan. Photo: Reuter

"We kicked off, Canberra played out their first set of six. Ricky Stuart kicked it over my head, I went to turn and my studs got caught and the boot didn't swivel at all and I tore my cruciate and I was gone for the year.

"So the other record I hold is the least amount of time on debut for the North Sydney Bears."

Paul was understandably proud of his son's achievement and was excited to travel up to the Gold Coast to watch the game - especially given he couldn't make it to Fiji for his sevens debut.

It's been a meteoric rise for Bailey, who started the summer on a train-and-trial contract, but earned himself firstly a development deal and then a two-year contract.

"I'm very proud of the fact he's worked so hard to get where he is," Paul said.

"As he knows he's only a custodian of the jumper for so long, with Rapana and Oldfield to come back, but if he can play well and put as much pressure on the decision making by the coaches that's all he can do."

Having played juniors for the Raiders - with fellow young gun Nick Cotric - and also the Canterbury Bulldogs, Bailey spent 2017-18 in the All Blacks Sevens program.

He said the fact his father played for the All Blacks played a part in his decision to try his hand at sevens, but he'd always wanted to return and crack the NRL.

Even if it meant missing out on the chance to play at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020.

With Paul returning to Canberra to work in the public service, it provided the perfect opportunity to test himself with the Raiders.

"Sevens is an Olympic sport so that's a quite big carrot for people to stay in sevens and try and strive for that," Bailey said.

"But a big thing for me was to be back with my immediate family and my mum and dad.

"I've always wanted to play NRL  and I played league growing up too, through juniors.

"It was a bit of an opportunity for me to come back and have a crack. I didn't want to leave that stone unturned."

NRL ROUND ONE

Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast, 6.10pm. Live on Fox League.

Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Bailey Simonsson, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. John Bateman. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Corey Horsburgh. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Jack Murchie, 20. Luke Bateman, 21. JJ Collins.

Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Brenko Lee, 3. Tyrone Peachey, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Tyrone Roberts, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Ryan James, 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14. Alexander Brimson, 15. Moeaki Fotuaika, 16. Max King, 17. Bryce Cartwright. Reserves: 18. Mitch Rein, 19. Dale Copley, 20. Anthony Don, 21. Keegan Hipgrave.

This story Simonsson's career has Sticky start, times two first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.