Bertoli-Simmonds: I'm rapt to be at Williamstown
With just over two weeks before our VFL side's first practice match, new recruit Hayden Bertoli-Simmonds cannot wait to pull on the blue and gold guernsey.
The former NEAFL star captained the Redland Bombers since 2017, but when his home club decided not to apply for a VFL license in 2021, only one thing was on his mind.
"I want to keep playing at the best level that I can," the damaging utility said.
"I just thought Williamstown was a really good fit for me. It's a really good club culture and as I'm seeing now, a really rich history which I'm pretty rapt to be a part of. But in terms of the now, they're just a great bunch of blokes to be around too.
"As a Queenslander you sort of always look at Victoria being the home of footy, I've always thought about playing in the VFL and now that I've got the opportunity to do it it's very exciting."
The 25-year-old played 82 games for the Bombers and was a NEAFL Rising Star winner in 2016.
A former Lions Academy product, Bertoli-Simmonds hasn't put a foot wrong during his first pre-season with the Seagulls.
"It's been really enjoyable," he said. "We're getting to the pointy end of pre-season now which is making things a bit more exciting, but the boys have been great, Plappy (VFL coach Justin Plapp) has been great and there's a few other new guys around that I guess are in the same boat as me, so it's been really good to get to know those blokes as well."
In 2019, Bertoli-Simmonds averaged over 20 touches, three tackles and five marks per game at NEAFL level.
"I think my fitness is going ok at the moment so I'll probably be around that wing, half-back area this season," he said. "Hopefully I can get a few handball receives - a few goals would be nice."
So how many goals can we expect to see?
"Well I actually didn't even kick a goal last year! So I'll try and get one in the first round and then go from there," he jested.
GM-Football Stephen Soulsby said it's an exciting prospect to have signed someone of Bertoli-Simmonds' calibre.
"He can play a variety of roles whether it be through our midfield, forward or defensive areas which is quite unique," he said. "Along with his natural leadership ability, Hayden brings a wealth of experience at state league level."
Williamstown has announced four practice matches in the build up to the season proper. The 2021 home and away fixture is yet to be confirmed.