By: JESS WEBSTER
Round 1 Rising Star Nominee: Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds
Emerging Redland midfielder Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds said he’s ready to take his game to a new level after beginning the 2016 season in style at the weekend.
The 20-year-old produced a best-on-ground performance in a 10-point win over Canberra, which earned the young gun the maximum 10 NEAFL MVP votes, followed by the Round 1 NEAFL Rising Star nomination.
The son of 1987 Grogan Medallist Terry Simmonds, Hayden joined Redland from junior club Morningside last season and was named in the club’s leadership group this year.
He said the Bombers environment has enabled his confidence to grow as he looks to make the transition from rising star to a genuine club leader.
“I feel like there are a few spots to be taken hold of after a few key players got drafted last year,” he said.
“It’s nice to be recognised in the leadership group, but I don’t think it will really change the way I go about it. Everyone is just trying to drive the standards and keep the group moving forward.
“Personally, I feel like I’ve been building, I’ve got a bit of confidence up now. I feel ready to take it on and see how I go.
“Confidence is a big thing for any young player. With the belief we’re building at the club and the fact everyone is so welcoming there - I think all the young guys would be feeling the same at Redland.”
The former Brisbane Lions Academy member is already a NEAFL premiership player after playing a role in the Lions’ 2013 triumph as a top-up player.
He made his NEAFL debut that year and played 26 games over two season before joining the Bombers last year, where he played all 18 matches and finished in the Top 10 of the Dowling Medal count.
Bertoli-Simmonds joins a long list of Rising Star nominees from Redland, including AFL draftees and past winners Josh Smith, Paul Hunter and Matt Uebergang.
“It’s nice to be recognised alongside guys like Josh and Paul, and Uebergang last year, who have won the award in the past,” he said.
“Everyone was really welcoming last year and there’s a good bunch of guys at the club.
“Even though A few of them have moved on, there is still a really good vibe. Everyone feels really comfortable around the group, which I think is a big thing, so hopefully we can get some good performances from that.”
The Rising Star is awarded to the most promising young talent in the NEAFL competition.
Nominees must be under the age of 21 and played less than 20 NEAFL games (excluding games as an AFL club top-up player) at the start of the 2016 season.
Keep track of all the 2016 nominees and watch their individual highlights on our dedicated Rising Star page here.
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