True Blue Jamie Soward casts his eyes over the two young guns set to make their NRL debut as they graduate from The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup into the top grade.
Wests Tigers rookies Tukimihia Simpkins and Junior Pauga will get their first taste of the NRL when they take on the 15th placed Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday.
It’s been a less than ideal preparation for the pair after they relocated to Queensland to enter the NRL bubble as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 situation in Greater Sydney. Despite the mid-season interruption, the pair will be hoping to bring some of the Magpies The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup form into the top grade as the Tigers look to snap a three-game losing streak.
Pauga made a name for himself in the New Zealand Warriors Under 20s side before making the jump across the ditch to play for Wynnum Manly Seagulls in Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup competition, playing 14 games and starting on the wing in the 2019 Grand Final.
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His 2020 season was cut short after the reserve grade competitions were cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic and he made the switch to Western Suburbs earlier this season. In his five games for the Magpies, he has managed 12 tackle breaks, 130 average running metres and one line break.
Simpkins, a 19-year-old Rugby Union convert from Rotorua, New Zealand, entered the NRL pathways system for the North Queensland Cowboys before making the switch to the Tigers.
The man-mountain forward stands at 192cm tall and weighs in at 105kg and despite his sheer size, he has also shown the ability to offload so far during the 2021 season. In 12 appearances for the Magpies, he has one try, 22 offloads, 112 average running metres and a tackle efficiency of 95.8%.
“The Wests Tigers have blooded two of their rookies in Junior Pauga and Tuki Simpkins who are both very talented players.
“You can see Pauga, he’s been playing in the Intrust Super Cup for the Sea Eagles and has been fantastic.
“He’s got footwork, power and strength.
“When the Tigers brought Zac Cini in they had the excitement of having a young guy involved and then they bring in a big, strong forward in Simpkins so I’m looking forward to watching both of those guys play and it might just be the fresh lick of paint they need with their season on the line.”