Why Simona put club before country
It takes a brave man indeed to forego a World Cup quarter-final for a summer of rehabilitation, but that's what rising Wests Tigers star Tim Simona maturely opted for last month.
One of the club's most promising juniors, Simona was selected by Kiwis coach Stephen Kearney in the train-on squad for the World Cup, but instead told the Kiwis mentor he would rather have surgery to fully right a troublesome shoulder injury. He is currently on track for an appearance in the Auckland Nines.
"He made the Kiwis squad and I reckon he'd be playing on the weekend," team-mate David Nofoaluma told NRL.com as the Tigers returned to training.
"But he chose to have surgery so that he could have a full year instead of risking any more damage. It took a lot of guts for him to do that. But I'm sure he's happy with his decision and will come back bigger and better next year."
Veteran team-mate Liam Fulton said he expected Simona to stand out for the club in the Auckland Nines in February.
"He probably would've been playing in the World Cup this weekend. He'd be disappointed not to be there, but he's training in rehab at the moment and he'll show everyone what he can do in the Nines," Fulton said.
Nofoaluma, who touched down for a screamer of a try in Campbelltown last season, was another who could've been featuring in the World Cup quarter-finals this weekend for Samoa, but said a full off-season at club level was more important to him at this stage of his career.
The 19-year-old instead featured for the Junior Kangaroos against the Junior Kiwis last month.
"They've got two good players there already in Daniel Vidot and Antonio Winterstein so I'm not sure I would've got a run anyway," Nofoaluma said.
"I loved going back to my age group in under-20s Junior Kangaroos. It showed me how far I'd come and how far I'm progressing along in my career.
"I personally spoke to the Tigers coaching staff and they recommended it'd be better for me to have a full pre-season.
"With guys like Marika (Koroibete) and Pat Richards, it's going to be a challenge to win that wing spot. You've always got to work for your position and once you do that, you've got to work twice as hard to keep it, so it's good for me to be here right now."
Fulton said that while the team will rely heavily on its plethora of young talent in 2014, he's already urged the team's senior players to ensure their young stars aren't overawed.
"I think you've got to bank on the young guys a little bit," Fulton said. "But it's obviously the senior players, the core group, who have to step up and improve on last year. It's a big year for us."