Even before making his NRL debut with the Wests Tigers in Round 18 of the 2021 season, Tuki Simpkins was already earmarked as a future first grader.
After dominating the middle of the park on just about every occasion for the top-two Western Suburbs Magpies team in The Knock-On Effect NSW Cup, it was only a matter of time before Tigers coach Michael Maguire handed him an NRL jersey.
When Simpkins made the switch from rugby union with a trip across the Tasman from his Rotorua hometown, Maguire showed early interest in the Kiwi forward who was part of the North Queensland Cowboys pathways system at the time.
Over a Zoom call with ‘Madge’, 19-year-old Simpkins decided to move to Sydney where he soon earned a start in the NSW Cup.
From 12 NSW Cup matches in 2021, Simpkins scored a try, had eight tackle busts and threw 22 offloads, amassing an average 112.3 running metres, 46.6 post-contact metres, and 32 tackles per game.
Ultimately going on to make his first NRL appearance, Simpkins’ 29-minute impact off the bench was something the Wests Tigers needed, coming away with a comfortable 42-24 victory over the Brisbane Broncos – their first win in four games.
Having now chalked up five NRL matches to date – all from the interchange – as he continues preparation for next season, Simpkins will no doubt be eyeing off more achievements in 2022.
Chief among those will be earning a spot in Maguire’s starting forward pack.