By JESS WEBSTER
Comeback kid Harry Simington is as hungry as ever to make up for lost time as he finishes season 2018 on a high.
The Gold Coast SUNS Academy player has spent nearly 12 months out of the game after two separate injuries has kept him sidelined during his bid to be selected in the NAB AFL Draft.
The 2017 Allies representative suffered a hamstring injury in his fist NEAFL game after representative duties last year, followed by a stress fracture in his foot during the pre-season which kept him out of action until Round 13.
Simington said it’s been a tough 12 months, but he is more focused on looking at what’s in front of him rather than behind.
“Obviously you get to your under-18 year and you try not to put too much pressure on yourself, but it is an important year (in terms of AFL Draft selection),” he said.
“I had some feedback from a few AFL clubs saying that they saw some stuff they liked in the Allies but they wanted me to finish off the season well in the NEAFL.
“When I wasn’t able to do that it does get you down a little bit. But I was lucky enough to get invited to the State Combine, so while I couldn’t play footy I still had something to look forward to and something to train for.
“There are a lot of good players who have setbacks, and if there is one thing you can draw from that, is that a couple of injuries here and there isn’t the end of it.
“I tried to stay really positive and that’s the way I managed with the disappointment of missing the last few games of last season.
“That’s footy for you, it’s a cut-throat industry. I was just trying to look forward, put that season to bed and focus on what I can actually control, which right now is the back end of this year.”
The 19-year-old hasn’t wasted any time making an impact upon his return. Simington has booted seven goals in four games whilst averaging 13 disposals and seven marks in his role as a key forward for the SUNS NEAFL team.
His latest performance – a four-goal effort in a 12-point loss to Brisbane last Saturday – cemented his status as an emerging talent in the competition by earning the Round 17 Tribal Sport NEAFL Rising Star nomination.
A Coomera and Labrador junior, Simington made his NEAFL debut back in 2016 and has the ability to play all over the field, including his latest role as a lead-up forward in an attacking lineup stacked with young academy talent.
Simington said he is relishing his return to senior football as the SUNS continue to fight for a place in the NEAFL finals.
“It’s been unreal. The first three games I played we won all three. It made me realise how good it is to be back out on the park.
“There is nothing like winning a game, let alone winning a couple of games we were underdogs in. I feel like being able to contribute to that is awesome.
“I think we have a rally exciting team and I’m so glad that I’m back out there and getting picked each week to play my role.
“The boys have been really supportive, especially being out for so long. It’s a really encouraging environment.”
The SUNS have had an up-and-down season but are still in the mix to play finals.
Whilst injuries have restricted the number of AFL-listed players in the NEAFL side, it’s allowed a host of academy players to step up and have an impact – something Simington believes has been key to their success in recent weeks.
“It comes down to how comfortable you are in the group. The senior boys and the coaching staff are really big on making us play like a group,” he said.
“The fact that the listed players really get around the academy boys gives them the licence to play their natural game, and you’re not so worried about the fact that you’re playing senior football.”
Gold Coast will need a big effort to make the final six – they need to beat the GIANTS, Brisbane and Sydney in the run home following this weeks’ bye.
“Absolutely I think we can do it,” Simington said.
“The task is pretty simple, we have to beat the teams that we’re fighting with for a spot in the six.
“We’re up and about. We’ve had an up and down season but we’re going in with our strongest lineup for the run home.
We’ve got massive belief in our group and what we can do when we play to our strengths.”
The Tribal Sport NEAFL 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 senior games (excluding games as AFL Academy players) at the start of the 2018 season.
Keep track of all our 2018 nominees here.
See all of our match statistics on our dedicated Champion Data page here.
Don’t forget to download our free NEAFL App, featuring live Champion Data stats, player bios and more! Available now from the Google Play and Apple stores.
Have your say! Follow the NEAFL on Twitter (@neaflofficial), Instagram (@neaflofficial) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/neaflofficial).