TAKE ME BACK
ON most afternoons you can find Tim Simona at Milton Park in Macquarie Fields, football in hand, catching, kicking and scoring tries that no one will ever see.
A world away from ANZ Stadium, the ground he once lit up with the Wests Tigers, Simona will also be dreaming of returning to the NRL.
Two years after being deregistered “indefinitely” over league’s biggest-ever betting scandal, Simona will this week meet the Rugby League Players Association to ask for help overturning his ban.
“I just have to have a football in my hands,’’ Simona, 27, said. “I have to have rugby league in my life. I go to the park with a football nearly every day and I dream of once again playing in the NRL. I want it more than anything.’’
The Sunday Telegraph has obtained a letter Simona will present the RLPA as well as a dossier outlining his rehabilitation and community work.
“The past two years have been the hardest of my life,’’ Simona wrote. “I appreciate the invaluable lessons I have learnt, which have been many.
“I have established that my true friends have gone from in the hundreds to a handful. I have been cut off, laughed at, made fun of, accused of things
I didn’t dd ’ d do. “My family had relied on me and my income to pay for food, rent, bills and holidays.
“In my culture the children support the parents and relatives overseas and I have not been able to do that, I have let them down. They are everything, they’ve kept me positive, made me realise that I’m not a bad person.
“I appreciate life more, I take nothing for granted.’’
Simona was deregistered in March 2017 after being found guilty of betting on NRL matches. At the time NRL boss Todd Greenberg said “it is very hard to imagine’’ Simona would ever be registered to play again.
The Kiwi centre was also given an 18-month good be
haviour bond for defrauding
charities by selling signed jerseys and keeping the cash.
“My intent at no stage was/ has been to embarrass the game,’’ Simona says in his letter. “I would never choose to do this journey and I hope no one I love or cared for would go on one remotely similar — it has been the most gutwrenching, difficult, embarrassing, shitty, shaming, disappointing, emotional, iso- lating, surreal, regrettable, anxious, all to the point I didn’t wish to live.
“Thankfully, I have gotten this far with support and love of others who have believed in me — I seek the support and understanding of the NRL and wish to be given the opportunity to show I am a changed man and not the person they have seen and believe me to be.’’
Simona has spent the past two years putting his life back together, completing eight sessions with a gambling psychologist and also working with several charities, including Camp Quality and the Salvation Army.
Following a stint packing boxes in a factory, Simona recently began working as a personal trainer for special needs children.
“Recently an opportunity came up to work full-time with special needs clients. I thought it was a great opportunity to give something back,” he said.
Once an NRL speedster with the world at his feet, Simona was last week chasing one of his clients through a shopping centre.
“I take the kids out for the whole day,’’ Simona said. “One of my clients told me he wanted to go to the shops so I took him to the mall. I had no idea but he doesn’t react well in crowds. He had a bit of an episode and took off trying to fight everyone. It was a bit of a mission to calm him down.’’
Set to sign a $1.5 million contract with South Sydney before he was stood down, Simona now earns less than $60,000 a year.
Simona must convince the NRL to overturn his ban before completing his rugby league comeback. At least two clubs have already expressed interest in signing him if he is cleared to return.
‘I have to have league in my life.
I dream of once again playing.
I want it more than anything’
Tim Simona was kicked out of the NRL in 2017 for betting on NRL games. He's since rebuilt his life and is looking to return.