Report: JEFF STEPHENSON
THERE’S little doubt Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds has grown into his role as leader of the Redland Bombers.
It’s just that last season he wasn’t afforded the opportunity to shine with that growth as much as he would have liked when injury robbed him of too much game time limiting his number of appearances for the 2018 season to just nine.
And in two of those his troublesome ankles forced early exits meaning he missed more than half the season.
So, to say Hayden is looking forward to this Saturday’s opening clash with defending premier Southport is (as they say in the classics) an understatement.
The good news for Bombers’ fans is that the 24-year-old club captain is now back and fully fit after a particularly solid pre-season and says with hand across the heart (metaphorically speaking) it’s good to be “feeling back to normal”
“It’s a relief to be able to say that I’m finally clear of the ankle problems,” he said.
“I’m really optimistic about the coming season – and excited.”
Hayden recalls seeing a powerful video involving the path to the AFL grand final and the excitement following West Coast Eagles 2018 premiership win in which Jeremy McGovern, dwelling on the journey, said: “There’s a little bit of beauty about footy – you just never know.”
That small quote – one of many – in an inspirational “Don’t Believe in Never” brilliantly concocted AFL-produced series has stuck with him.
It has served as a propellant for his own assault on season 2019 as well as for the fortunes of the Redland Bombers.
“That’s the way I feel about this season,” Hayden says.
“You never know – you just never know.
“I guess all teams will be saying they’re a bit better this time of the year than they were last year
“But you never know.”
What he does know is that Redland fills the bill regarding an eye to improvement with key players back, including himself, and an influx of bigger-bodied midfielders from where the Bombers will be generating much of their drive.
Among the major difficulties last season was the propensity for the Bombers to unintentionally take their foot off the pedal just as momentum started swinging their way.
That and untimely injuries – particularly at the onset of the season – hit the club hard and confidence deteriorated, albeit subconsciously, impacting on the ability to maintain momentum.
Hayden thought that with a clean bill of health the Bombers were primed to make a better fist of things in 2019.
That aside, Soul Cormick’s return will prove hugely beneficial as will having Clay Cameron back for the full season and Hayden himself will slip back into his leadership role with the aplomb to which we have all become accustomed.
Not that he sees the captaincy title as the be all and end all.
“I’m not big on it being all about me,” he said.
“It’s more about everyone stepping up and helping to build confidence within each other.
“We can all adopt leadership and take it on.
“It’s about helping each other and supporting each other.”
Hayden will get plenty of support let there be no doubt about that.
With Adrian Williams and Clay Cameron his able deputies, Tom Salter in the mix and Jack Rolls continuing to shine there is personnel aplenty to guide the on-field fortunes.
And dare we forget Phil Carse.
“Phil’s presence is enormous,” Hayden said.
“The experience is there, we’re confident and we’re a relatively young group.
“We’ve got plenty of new faces in the mix and the group as one is excited about the season ahead.
“You know, you’ve just got to look at the season Canberra had last year (the Demons took the competition by surprise winning eight games in succession at one stage).
“That’s momentum and that’s the sort of momentum we’ll be trying to build.”