Bailey Simonsson’s decision to return to rugby league at the end of 2018 garnered an NRL grand final appearance with Canberra and a Kiwis call-up within 12 months.
The son of Paul Simonsson, a Waikato rugby union winger and 1987 All Black who switched codes with the North Sydney Bears, Bailey was born in Sydney. He played junior football for West Belconnen Warriors, near Canberra, before spending two seasons with Canterbury Bulldogs’ NYC team.
Simonsson moved to New Zealand in 2018, turning out for Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup and winning in a spot in the All Blacks Sevens team. But the Raiders lured Simonsson back to the 13-a-side game and he provided valuable depth at wing, centre and fullback.
The 21-year-old scored eight tries in 21 NRL appearances in 2019 and came off the bench in the Raiders’ brave 14-8 grand final loss to Sydney Roosters.
Simonsson was subsequently named in the New Zealand squads for the World Cup Nines and post-season Tests. He scored tries in pool victories over Papua New Guinea – a freakish late match-winner – and Samoa at the Nines, before featuring in final loss to Australia. The rookie missed out on the match-day 17 for the three subsequent Tests against the Kangaroos and Lions.
Securing a Raiders wing spot early in 2020, Simonsson crossed for two tries in seven games before a shoulder injury prematurely ended his sophomore NRL campaign in July.
The 23-year-old bounced back impressively in 2021, making 17 appearances for Canberra at wing and fullback. He scored six tries – including a hat-trick in a loss to Melbourne Storm – before being named in the Kiwis’ wider squad for the World Cup at the end of the season.