Tim Simona’s hopes of a rugby league return have hit another roadblock after Toronto Wolfpack and Hull KR were told his contract would not be registered.
Former Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens, who handed Simona his NRL debut in 2011, has been making enquiries about his availability and is willing to hand him a career lifeline at Hull KR next season.
Toronto coach Paul Rowley, who is also willing to give Simona another chance after being banned by the NRL for betting against his own team, has hit out at the Rugby Football League rules that prohibit Simona from playing for the Wolfpack next year.
Under the eligibility rules surrounding foreign players, those seeking a contract in the English competitions must play 50 per cent of games in the NRL the previous year unless injured.
Simona didn’t play a game in the NRL last year and is also one game shy of the six games required for Samoa to be granted an exemption through international eligibility rules.
“We were told by the RFL he was a couple of games off making the criteria so we, nor any other English clubs, would be able to sign him,” Toronto coach Paul Rowley told NRL.com.
“In a world of free speech and opportunity, rugby league provides very little. To me it’s a restriction of trade. It shouldn’t matter what colour, creed, nationality or whatever. It shouldn’t matter.
“You’re a human being and you have a talent so you should be fully eligible to find employment wherever you want. I don’t think we’re in a strong enough position as a sport to be so restrictive in our measures. It’s ultimately creating mediocrity at the top level in my opinion.”
NRL.com understands the RFL would likely impose any sanction on a player enforced by the NRL, however it hasn’t stopped Simona and his agent, Sam Ayoub, from trying to open the door to the English Super League.
Under the RFL’s operational rules, the board has the opportunity to deny registration of a player if it has reason to believe he has been deregistered from another competition for disciplinary reasons.
Former Great Britain coach Brian Noble, the director of football at the Wolfpack, believes Simona’s indiscretions aren’t as serious as some other players who have been granted permission.
“The bottom line is of course we were prepared to give him a second chance,” Noble told NRL.com.
“People make mistakes in their life and if you actually look at what he’s done, while it doesn’t look to flash and too flavourful, I’ve known people to be registered for far worse things.
“You have to understand the person as well and if the person can convince you and they take the steps towards redemption, then why not? I’ve seen so many examples of people turning the corner, so why not Tim?”
Rowley echoed Noble’s sentiment, adamant he could have got the best out of Simona on and off the field.
“It’s about managing people and I have good record of bringing in people who are perceived to be troubled characters and bringing them into a happy environment and bringing the best out of people,” Rowley said.
“Our environment is pretty good like that. You either fit in or you leave. I would have liked to have got past stage one and maybe give him a cuddle and take it from there. But that’s not going to happen now.”
It’s understood Simona’s manager hasn’t given up hope of finding his client a deal but may have to look at European rugby union as an alternative option.