Entering the AFL system as a skinny kid from Emerald, Kade Simpson, 32, is set to become the 12th Carlton footballer to play 250 AFL matches against Port Adelaide on Sunday.
Brad Fisher, 32, played 99 games for the Blues and has been one of Simpson’s close friends since the duo were drafted together in 2002. 74 of those matches were spent by Simpson’s side in the navy blue jumper.
“Simmo and I played together in the Eastern Ranges Under18s and we were reasonably good mates but once we got drafted to Carlton we spent a fair bit of time together. We both lived out in the eastern suburbs and spent a lot of time sitting in the car and chasing a bit of a common dream and became best mates from there.
“He first came down to the Eastern Ranges as an under 17 in our first year of under 18s and he only played around four or five games. I didn’t know much about him, I knew he was skinny, had a nice left-foot and was a pretty shy sort of guy.
“One day in a practice match out at Healesville, I still remember it, Simmo scooped up the footy on the half-forward flank, took on one or two blokes and calmly slotted it from 45 metres on his left peg. I remember standing next to Blake Grima who ended up at the Kangaroos and said to him ‘he’s going to get drafted this bloke’ and on that occasion I was right.
“My early memories of him off the field are that he was pretty shy and usually kept to himself, but once he lets you in and you build that trust with him, he’s as loyal as anyone I’ve ever met.
“After we were both drafted to the Blues, Simmo was living out at Emerald and I was in Wantirna – we both still lived at home – so he’d come past on the way through we’d end up sitting in Melbourne traffic for about an hour on the way into footy training.
“As I said before, he was pretty shy so we’d spend a fair bit of time listening to the radio and taking it pretty easy for the first couple of months but once we really became relaxed around each other and became good mates, those trips became really enjoyable.
“Once you get to know him and he’s in one of his moods, he can become good fun pretty quickly so I used to have a ball with him sitting there talking footy and a few gags, it was good fun.
“gee he is grumpy. Especially as he gets a bit older on the footy field, I enjoy watching a few of his little tantrums he throws” – Brad on Kade
“He’s also a real green thumb. If you go to his house there won’t be a flower out of place and every blade of grass will be cut perfectly, so I wouldn’t mind seeing him grab a nursery or do something like that when he finishes footy because he is a meticulous gardener.
“Chris and Murray’s plant farm originated out in Emerald so maybe he spent a bit of time there and it’s stayed true with him.
“His best characteristic is his loyalty. If you’re one of his mates, you’ll never hear him say a bad word about anyone. Often when you’re with a group of mates, you bag the one who’s not there and talk about things that mate does that annoys you, well Simmo won’t partake in that conversation – he’s fiercely loyal.
“But he can get grumpy, gee he is grumpy. Especially as he gets a bit older on the footy field, I enjoy watching a few of his little tantrums he throws out on the field. But it’s only because footy means so much to him and the navy blue jumper means so much. But he is a grumpy little bugger.
“A couple of my favourite memories involve Denis Pagan. With the first one, I think it was Simmo’s second or third game, we had just beaten Richmond at the MCG and Simmo got about two minutes game time. So Denis said to him after the game ‘gee son, I looked down on the boundary and thought about putting you on but you just looked so skinny, it’s a windy day and I was worried you were going to blow away out there so maybe wear six jumpers next week so you become a bit thicker than you are’.
“And my favourite one was when we were doing a one-on-one accountability drill, it was one of Denis’ favourite drills. Basically you get a partner and the footy can go anywhere out on the ground and it’s just 10 or 15 minutes of hard running, so you want to make sure you’re matched up on someone that you can handle their running capabilities.
“Anyway, Simmo was with maybe Scott Camporeale, who was an elite runner, and Campo managed to put 10 or 15 metres distance between himself and Simmo and Denis yelled out ‘Simmo, too many bloody cigarettes mate, you can’t keep up’. Poor old Simmo has never had a cigarette in his life so I’m not sure what Denis was thinking there.
“I think that haunted Simmo for a while too, I think he was a bit unsure of what Denis thought of him but I’m sure Denis is pretty proud considering how he’s going now.”
For more In Two Minds with North Melbourne footballers Majak Daw and Lindsay Thomas click HERE
“Brad and I played under 18s together at the Eastern Ranges. I think Brad was there for a few years all through the academies but I came down from Emerald at 17 and once we started playing together we became good mates.
“My first impressions of him were his long arms. Every time he took a mark, he was really stretched out and he took the ball at the highest point. It was something he was renowned for during his AFL career as well.
“Denis referred to him as the human javelin one day because he had the long arms and was pointy-thin.
“Off the field, the thing that stood out was his hair. He is probably still rocking the same haircut he was when I first met him so it’s good he knows what works for him.
“He has a plate with a couple of fake teeth and when he was a bit younger and a bit immature, he’d drop the fangs out every chance he got” – Kade on Brad
“Of those early car trips, I remember that whoever wasn’t driving would just sleep on the way in. We both had shocking cars, I think he had the VK and I had the VL and they were long trips.
“Brad is such a character, a real genuine bloke, loves to have a laugh at himself and others so I think that’s why we get along so well. We have similar personalities and I know when we hang around with our partners they think we speak a different language such is the way we carry on together.
“One of my favourite memories, and it’s something he stopped doing since he’s been married, is him taking his teeth out. He has a plate with a couple of fake teeth and when he was a bit younger and a bit immature, he’d drop the fangs out every chance he got. I think his partner Anelise told him to keep them in but it’s something I miss.
“He’s also a pretty decent golfer but he’s right handed and I’m left handed so every now and then he grabs my clubs and usually hits the ball further than what I do, so he’s pretty handy at swinging with either hands.
“I’ll never forget the dance moves he used to pull on some of the footy trips. He used to tuck his T-shirt in and put his jeans up around his nipples and bust some moves out on the dance floor, and with the teeth out as well – they were some fair highlights.”