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70 mins ago
Bay of Plenty rugby hooker Ngarimu Simpkins could be in breach of his contract after trialing for Sydney rugby league club Wests Tigers.
Simpkins left Rotorua for Sydney and will spend the next three months training with Wests Tigers, with the National Rugby League (NRL) club agreeing to pay his living expenses while he is there.
"I had a trial with the club last month and they asked me to come back. I have been training five days a week with the main team since," he said yesterday.
His only previous league experience was at under-12 level.
Simpkins, 23, who has played 13 matches for Bay of Plenty, said he had had limited chances on the bench this year with the side.
He said he respected rival hooker Aleki Lutui's ability but felt he "was getting on a bit" and wanted to make the most of opportunities.
"I have been told I might have a big future in the game and I would be a fool not to take the chance."
He said he had told Wests Tigers he was under contract to Bay of Plenty.
However, Simpkins could be in breach of his contract with the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union.
Contracts manager Craig Morris said Simpkins had told the union he was travelling to Australia for work purposes and they had no knowledge he had trialed for Wests.
"If he is (trialing) he has lied to us, it would have been nice to know about it first," Morris said.
Morris said the union was similar to other employers, who wanted to know where their employees were.
"All he had to do was tell us he had an opportunity to trial, and we would have said 'good on you'," Morris said.
"It's always been the policy of the union not to try to stop players from pursuing other opportunities if they can benefit from them."
Bay of Plenty coach Vern Cotter said he could not comment because the news had taken him by "complete surprise".
"He is under contract to the union and if he is cross-training in preparation for next (NPC) season there shouldn't be a problem.
"He is a promising young player and developing all the time. I had him pencilled in with the Chiefs development side."
Wests Tigers football development manger Steve Lavers said Simpkins needed to play well in the three pre-season trials to be guaranteed a contract.
Lavers said Simpkins' league inexperience would see him placed with premier feeder club Balmain to monitor his progress.
Simpkins was training with the club's NRL squad to fast-track his league skills and it is understood the club had a vacancy in the front row.
He said Simpkins was being looked at as a possible replacement at prop.
"Hooker is a different role in rugby league than rugby union and we would be seeing him as a prop."