Redland captain Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds will be the latest addition to the NEAFL’s list of centurions this weekend as he runs out against the Gold Coast this Saturday.
With finals looking unlikely, the 24-year-old sees a win this weekend as a stepping stone toward the long-term, looking to be apart of the Bombers’ resurgence in the coming seasons.
“A theme for us throughout the year has just been trying to turn the tide of the club,” Bertoli-Simmonds told neafl.com.au.
“As a club when, we look back in a couple of years that the 2019 group was the group that got the Redland footy club back on track, back in finals, back winning finals.
"I don’t think finals are mathematically out of the question, Canberra won eight games in a row last year. You never give up on that.
“(We’re) laying a foundation for the future.”
Playing for Morningside as a junior, Bertoli-Simmonds became a member of the Brisbane Lions Academy, where he made his NEAFL debut with the Lions, and subsequently played in their 2013 premiership side as a 17-year-old.
“It’s gone pretty quickly to be honest,” he said.
“Obviously, I haven’t played 100 Redland games, and I was probably more fortunate than a lot of 18 and 19-year-olds being able to play as a top-up through the Lions. It’s not something I’ve really thought about, but it is a good achievement to have played 100 games, especially giving the NEAFL is a relatively new competition so not many people have done it.”
In 2017 Bertoli-Simmonds became Redland's youngest ever captain at just 21. He admits he has taken some time adjusting to the role, but that the addition of playing-coach Phil Carse has been well-received.
“I struggled (with captaincy) last year having not played many games with my ankle,” he said.
“I think it’s something that takes a little bit of time for you to find your way, the type of leader you want to be and the type of person you want to be around the club.
"I think that does take a little bit of time. I feel like I’ve found my feet a bit more and know the direction I want to go on.
“To be fair, this year Carse has stepped in as just a great leader. Having him on field really helps and that has probably made my job and the other leaders of the club a lot easier. I have more of an understanding of what works for me and what works for the team.”
Feeling more comfortable as a captain now, Bertoli-Simmonds has been keen to improve the consistency and impact of his on-field performances.
“I’ve focused on trying to have more of an impact as just another player, and really lead by example. In my early days I think I could get caught up worrying more about leadership side of things than your performance. I haven’t played as well as I would’ve liked to this year," he said.
“I probably haven’t hit the form I had in that 2016 year. For me, it’s just about trying to help the team win more games.”
The 2016 NEAFL Rising Star winner echoes the sentiments of many others in the NEAFL when discussing his club, expressing his affection toward the family environment the club provides as well as the opportunity to develop his career.
“I love the Redland footy club. I don’t see myself anywhere else to be honest, love the club, love the boys," he said.
“The Redland footy club is just a community, including the Viccy Point Sharks and juniors. The amount of volunteers and work that goes on behind the scenes from people who contribute to what the players do on the weekend - it’s huge., it really is.
“As a player even after a lean couple of years, to go into the rooms or clubhouse and the sponsors and everyone still supporting you. There’s people that just care so much about the club. Regardless of the result there’s just unwavering support. It’s great to be able to thank them, so hopefully we can give them a bit more reward in the second half of the year.”
Bertoli-Simmonds will lead the Bombers onto Metricon Stadium this Saturday morning for his milestone match, and is not alone in his eagerness for the match-up.
“(It’s) always great to go up against AFL sides, and to be on another AFL deck this week after being on the Gabba last week,” he said.
“The Gold Coast knocked off Sydney last week, so we know it’ll be a really tough contest. We always look forward to challenging ourselves against the AFL clubs.
"It’s a winnable game, we really pushed GWS and pushed Sydney earlier in the year with probably a similar amount of listed players as the SUNS will have this weekend.”
Don’t forget to download our free NEAFL App, featuring live Champion Data stats, player bios and more! Available now from the Google Play and Apple stores.
Have your say! Follow the NEAFL on Twitter (@neaflofficial), Instagram (@neaflofficial) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/neaflofficial).
The Official NEAFL App contains all the latest news and videos from the League and around the clubs. Keep up to date with live scores and live streaming, plus team and player stats as they happen throughout the game.