Kade Simpson becomes the fourth Carlton player to play 300 games for the club. Ahead of his special milestone this weekend, AFLPlayers.com.au chats to a few friends and former teammates about a young Simpson, his personality and what he’s like off the field.
The memory that sticks out the most is in my first or second weekend at the club. When CQ started back in the day, a few of the older boys got a couple of us younger guys together at Brad Fisher and Kade Simpson’s house before going to CQ for a few drinks.
That my first memory of Simmo and him welcoming us younger boys to the footy club, so to speak.
He’s reserved and doesn’t say too much but in his little circle, he’s quite cheeky actually and is one to stir the pot a little bit. He’s a lot of fun when he’s in those cheeky moods. To back that up, he’s one of the better performers on mad Monday as well when it comes to a bit of carry on.
It took a while to form a bond with him, probably two or three years before we started to have a connection and hang out a bit more.
But he’s been one of my absolute best mates. We’ve spent a lot of time together, he’s in my wedding party and will be standing up alongside me on the big day. That’s the relationship we’ve formed over the 11 years I was at Carlton.
As a player, he’s learned as he’s matured. He sets the example in terms of professionalism and going over and above the schedule. He was always in early if he needed physio or treatment. He knew Pilates and rehab would be vital for him getting on the park each week as he got older.
It’s the old cliché of first to arrive and last to leave when it comes to Simmo. He’s always on the Pilates bed or in the ice-baths, he would do anything he could to get his body right and being the age that he is, it works for him.
Despite being on one-year contracts over the last few years, his form has been arguably the best of his career.
That consistency is what’s made him great. He doesn’t whinge about it and doesn’t let it bore him. Those things can get repetitive and you might be having a shit day and want to get out of the club thinking ‘I don’t want to do this today’ but he goes about things quietly and doesn’t make a fuss. He gets in and gets it done so that consistency is the things that stands out for me.
One year we did a pre-season camp in Arizona and halfway through that trip, we checked the NBA schedule because we’re both massive fans. It was a two-week camp and we were given a week off afterwards so we figured we’d stay in the States for a couple of days and catch a couple of basketball games.
We got it ticked off, changed our flights and went on a small road trip from Arizona to Denver to watch Denver play Oklahoma City, which was awesome. We sat three rows back from court side and went to LA to catch another game. It was just the two of us, which was cool. I’ll remember that trip for the rest of my life.
Fourteen years ago, I rocked up to Carlton and Kade was a little rake back then, he was a skinny twig. He had no facial hair, no beard, nothing.
I remember the way he went about it on the field and at training. He led the way and it shows now with how well he’s going at game 300. I honestly believe he could play for five more years given how well he’s moving. He’s been one of, if not, the best player for Carlton this year.
There are a lot of boys who were big on their preparation and diet and Simmo was one of them. He was a bit chubby back in the day, a bit fat around the gut area, but now he’s elite. The way he eats, trains and prepares is done to a tee.
As you get older, you need more emphasis on your body and diet and it’s hard to get on the park each week but he’s doing it so well. It’s a massive effort to play 300 games.
On the field, I like to chat, have a bit of fun, talk some crap and enjoy it out there. It was the first game at Adelaide Oval this year against the Blues and I lined up alongside Kade. We got the first clearance and the ball came our way and I thought ‘you beauty, I’ll just push Simmo out of the way,’ because of his light frame, but he pushed me clean out of the way, knocked me to the ground and took the mark.
I was like ‘you little prick’ and I told him to stop pushing me around when the play continued on. He’s not a big talker out there — he spends more time talking to his teammates like a leader should.
When their defenders get together in their groups out on the ground, you could tell that he was driving a lot of that communication. I actually believe that Simmo should’ve been captain and I’ve told him that a few times. That’s the way I’ve seen Kade lead around the ground, on game day and at training.
When I first rocked up to the club, he was driving this old VL Commodore. He was driving this square thing around with fluffy seat covers and the number plate had ‘SIMMO’ on it. That’s one of the more funny things I remember.
I received AFL life membership with Simmo this year and that’s something I’ll hold closely for a long time. He’s a great bloke and it was awesome to play alongside him for Australia against Ireland in International Rules. He hasn’t changed, he’s still the same bloke just with more leadership qualities.
Kade and Brad Fisher arrived at the same time and they were like two peas in a pod those blokes. They were always together — where there was Fish, there’d be Simmo and where there was Simmo, there’d be Fish.
They used to come to training together in Simmo’s hotted up VL Commodore or whatever it was with his ‘SIMMO6’ number plate.
Both Simmo and Fish were good blokes. They were quiet but they were good guys. Simmo obviously played the three games without getting a touch, which was pretty funny.
We got into him a little bit about that but as most people would see with Simmo, nothing fazes him. He’s quiet, relaxed and comfortable with himself. Not getting a touch in those games didn’t affect him one bit.
He’s obviously very skilful and has a beautiful left foot. He’s bloody skinny, a bit like Matty Lappin, they’re so durable. I don’t know how they don’t get injured — maybe it’s because they don’t have any muscle so they never tear anything.
He’s so courageous. When you stand in a room with all your teammates, there’s a few who you don’t know if they’ll be there for you on the day but you never had to look at Simmo because he was always going to be there.
He’s a great clubman and I think that helps. When you put your body on the line week-in, week-out, he’d be one of the first players picked most weeks. Only four other players have played 300 games for Carlton so it’s an amazing achievement.
I remember my wife telling me 10 years ago that Simmo was such an underrated player. Alex doesn’t know much about the sport but she was around it so much that Simmo became her favourite player.
She used to love ‘Lappo’ as well, must’ve been the long sleeves. She loves Simmo because he doesn’t get much attention and is one of the better performers most weeks.
That resonates with the fans as well because Carlton supporters love Simmo. They know what they’re going to get, which isn’t the case with most players.
Simmo is a cleanskin but one day we were training when Denis Pagan was the coach so it would’ve been in Simmo’s first couple of years into the system, he was still building that engine. He was playing on Scott Camporeale and Campo burnt him off during a drill and Denis yelled out ‘get off the smokes, Simmo!’
Obviously, Simmo doesn’t smoke but gee it was funny.
Kade, Brad Fisher and myself hit it off so we spent a lot of time together early days, watching movies and commuting to and from training. When we had a few hours, we’d head back to our house in Reservoir and watch a few movies.
Early days, we used to train in the morning, do some weights and then have a few hours off and weren’t required at the club until around 2pm. We’d drive back home, grab some subway and watch some movies.
We would’ve watched Fast and the Furious 15,000 times and the commute to and from training were some of the best times. We had a good trip to America when we were younger, too, which was awesome.
We got a long well because we were similar people and were drafted around the same time. Kade was the more serious one but he had a real cheeky side. He has a dry sense of humour and our relationship formed naturally. We’ve been good friends since.
His diet is impeccable, the way he prepares for a game mentally and physically is top notch. He’s so durable and hasn’t missed a lot of games through injury. He prepares well in his general life. He’s always had a good head on his shoulders with the way he’s set himself up outside of footy.
When playing against Carlton, I try and have a chat to him but he gives me nothing. He’s serious on the footy field. I try and get in his ear but he’s too busy concentrating on instructing his boys.
He’s a jovial guy and is always playing a few gags among the group. He slips under the radar with that stuff, too. He’s just as jokey as anyone else but he always seems to get away with it because the coaches love him.
He’s smart in that way, he’s never one to get in trouble even though he’s probably the one starting it half the time — he’s sneaky and is a lot of fun.
I went to school with Simmo. I was a year older and he played at Emerald while I played at Gembrook but we went to the same school. He was a skilful but he was a small and skinny young bloke.
His older brother, Ryan, was a gun footballer, too. As skilful as Kade was, I don’t think anyone would’ve thought he’d play 300 AFL games. Ryan was probably the one to watch because Kade was so skinny and small.
He was a bottom-ager at the Eastern Ranges when I was there but he played local and school footy. He got a call-up for the Ranges squad halfway through the year and played a handful of games.
Before that stage, he hadn’t been on the radar. He was a good local footballer but he just came up so quickly. In his top-age year, he was an All-Australian and everyone was like ‘woah, where did this bloke come from?’
My mum used to pick us up from school and we’d go to Croydon for training, which was a bit of a drive, so we’d spend the afternoon together three nights per week.
He was quiet in the car but he comes from a lovely family. He was shy but once you get to know him, he’s one of the best people you’ll ever meet. He’s polite and quietly spoken but he’s a likable guy who was popular at school.
Back in the day, he was the skinny and small kid who could run and kick but we never thought he’d become the tough, courageous 300-gamer that he is today.
You could nearly brake him in half and he’s still pretty lean now but there wouldn’t be too many braver on the footy field than Kade Simpson.
He was an ultimate professional, a true gentleman, and he’s such a nice bloke. He’s well liked, I certainly didn’t hear any opposition players say they disliked Kade.
He’s done so well to forge such an amazing career and he’s not showing any signs of slowing down.
Simmo is a straightshooter. He’s such a quiet guy. When I first got the club, I was playing twos and he was in the senior side — I don’t think he liked to interact too much with the lowly Northern Bullants players!
I didn’t get to know him until I started playing in the Carlton side. I was good mates with Fish, who lived with Simmo up the road so Shaun Grigg and I used to knock around with them a little bit. The first time I spoke to him was at the CQ nightclub where him and all the cool boys used to hang out.
Once you get into his inner-circle, he’s so loyal. The only time I’ve seen him get fired up is when one of his friends or teammates are getting attacked.
He’s a bit of an enigma like that — he won’t say a word but if you cross someone who’s close to him, he becomes an angry little man.
He wears his heart on his sleeve and can fire up but take him away from the field, you won’t get a word out of him. He enjoys sitting on the couch with the partner and his dog.
He’s got such a big heart. What he lacks in physical size, he makes up for in courage and determination. He’s a hard worker and he speaks when it’s necessary. Looking at him, you wouldn’t think he’s played 300 games but if you know the person he is it’s not surprising at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if he made 350 as well.
His 250th match was my 150th and last game. It was against Port Adelaide as well, coincidentally. That was something I’ll always treasure. You could see how much that game meant to him, he was in tears afterwards and it wasn’t because of his ego or anything like that, it was because of how happy he was for the club.
We were in a similar situation back then as they are now. The emotion afterwards wasn’t him, it was for his teammates.
It’s been a big week for him, which he wouldn’t be enjoying too much because he likes to shy away from that stuff. I’ve enjoyed seeing all the things written and said about Kade because there still is that belief that he’s underrated.
That isn’t the case within Carlton’s walls and it’s only because you never really see him on the TV shows or in the media, he likes going about these thing his own way.
He’ll be hating the attention and would be looking forward to getting the game over and done with. When he does retire, it would be good for him to go back and read these things because I doubt he’d be reading them now.
When he’s had a good win after the club has had its back up against the wall, he changes so much. I can still picture it in my mind, he had this feeling of pride and relief and it’s the one time you see him come out and show a bit more of himself. He becomes more emotional.
Big finals or big wins are the things I can remember most about Simmo when I think back because he’s usually so level-headed, calm and reserved.
He becomes himself on the field because he’s relaxed. After those wins, you can see how much it all means to him. He lets it all go then.