TUMUT teenager Sam Simmonds is gearing up to represent the ACT Brumbies in the upcoming national rugby union championships for under 16s.
The titles are conducted annually by the Australian Rugby Union, and this year will be held at St Ignatius College Riverview at Lane Cove in the first week of October.
The Brumbies as well as teams from NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia will be in the championships, as will a national indigenous side.
“It will be good. Apparently Super 15 scouts and other scouts from around Australia will be there,” Sam said.
Sam missed out on selection in the State titles earlier this year but was encouraged to keep going, and he trialled with the Brumbies 16s each week until recently.
Trialling usually involved two nights each week and a Sunday training session at Canberra.
With Tumut not having an under 17 team, Sam and fellow Tumut teen Will Rose played for Wagga City at under 17 level in weekly club football this year. The fact that the City team had very few wins was not a hindrance to Sam’s progress.
Sam was in the Brumbies 16s team which had a convincing win over a Victorian team at Wagga early last month, and was subsequently told he needed to improve some parts of his fitness, and needed core strength.
“The level of fitness from club to the next level is huge,” Sam said.
Sam also made a Brumbies squad two years ago, when he was 14, before two fractures in his leg last year halted his progress.
Sam had to go to two training sessions each week two years ago when he was in the squad, and he said this week that in 2010 it “wasn’t as intense as it is now”.
“It wasn’t as in depth or as hard (as it is now),” he said.
Last Sunday, Sam and his Brumbies 16s team-mates went down six tries to nil against a Sydney team, which comprised of the best 16s players throughout Sydney. The match was at Forshaw Rugby Park in Sylvania Waters.
“We were out-enthused and didn’t play to our structure,” Sam said.
Last Sunday wasn’t a good day for the Brumbies 16s, who arrived late after the team bus missed a turn-off.
Sam’s next match will be at six o’clock tonight as the Brumbies 16s contest the Brumbies 17s at Griffith Oval. Interestingly, Sam will play for the 16s while his fellow flanker at Wagga City lines up for the Brumbies 17s.
Next Thursday, Sam and his Brumbies team-mates will receive their jerseys for the national championships, with a Brumbies player or coach most likely to present the jerseys.
Sam’s year has been busy considering he also played rugby league for the Tumut Blues under 16s when his rugby union commitments didn’t intervene. Sam said he was still keen to play rugby league when it didn’t clash with rugby union commitments.
Before this year, Sam’s rugby league experience was virtually restricted to playing for McAuley Catholic Central School, but Blues 16s coach Steve Kent was keen for Sam to play for the Blues.
“I thought I’d give it a go for some fun, and because a lot of my friends are in the team,” Sam said.
Sam felt that playing two codes was good for match fitness “and the mental side of the game as well”.
The most notable differences for Sam when comparing league and union included more one-on-one tackling in league, and the attacking and defensive lines being a lot closer in union.
Having played union since the age of five, Sam said he hoped to some day make it professionally in rugby somewhere.
Sam appreciated the support he has received from various clubs this year, including the Tumut Blues in league and the union clubs from Tumut and Wagga City. Thanks were also extended to KFC for its support and understanding, and allowing Sam time off work.