Simon Black wasn’t the fastest, strongest or most gifted footballer when he walked through Brisbane’s doors and knew he had to get an edge on the opposition if he was to going make it at the elite level.
Before Black became one of the AFL’s most decorated players during his time at the Lions, his lack of speed was a concern for recruiters leading into the 1997 draft.
While he was regarded as Western Australia’s best underage footballer at the time, Black slipped to pick 31 in the national draft in what would become one of the best steals in draft history with Black playing 322 games across 16 years in the AFL.
Forever the professional and hard-worker, he sought to improve all areas of his game, but tells Aflplayers.com.au it was vital to become elite in the areas that were his strengths.
“I think my reaction time, using my body in contested situations, being clean at ground level and judging the ball in the air off the ruckman’s hands was really important for me, so those were things I focused on throughout my career,” Black says.
“I’ve always been a big believer in the two or three things that are important to your game and really honing in on those, so the key for me was around moving before the opposition.”
It was the 37-year-old’s ability to draw on his own experiences as a player and his passion for the caper that led to a seamless transition into a coaching role at Brisbane immediately after hanging up the boots in 2013.
Despite the lack of control on game day, which he said could lead to “pulling your hair out”, Black enjoys still being entwined in the game.
So it was only logical that he would look to extend his involvement in the game, which he did by lending his name to a football academy and taking the lead as head coach.
Launching the Simon Black Australian Rules Academy in Melbourne late last year following set-ups in Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast, the concept combines football development with education where students receive access to elite level coaching and also a pathway to university.
The academy is open to males and females aged 16 years or more who have left high school and want to complete further study while following their football passion.
Black says the academy was something he was keen to get involved in, and believes it compares well with any other models out there.
“I love footy and understand the education element can be a significant pathway for the guys’ futures. It’s something that’s really new but I’m passionate about it,” Black said.
“I think what separates us is the quality of coaching and the care that we’re giving and I guess it’s the extra mile that we’re willing to go as a coaching group and as an academy. We back ourselves to really have some genuine care for the guys off the field and in their lives as well.
“We’re keen to keep growing and are in the process of doing that. We really believe in the concept, it’s been a great six or eight months but we are looking to grow it in the next six to 12 months as well. So watch this space and see how we go.”
To sign up or learn more about the Simon Black Australian Rules Academy click HERE.