When an opposition player landed on Jy Simpkin following a tackle in the first game of his high school footy season, he thought his chances of being drafted were slim to none.
In what is supposed to be the most important year for future draftees, Simpkin broke his leg and also tore a ligament, ending his year before he could show recruiters what he could do.
Simpkin was pessimistic about his draft chances and was forced to come to terms with relying on his previous work as he entered one of the biggest moments of his life.
As it turned out, he need not have worried, and while recovering from his season-ending injuries, the teenager had the support of his boarding school mates at Scotch College, one of whom was highly-rated junior Will Brodie.
“Especially early days after breaking my leg, I was really down about the whole situation,” Simpkin told Aflplayers.com.au.
“But having Will and a few other mates at boarding school helped me out. Even if it was something as simple as getting me dinner, it made me feel a lot better and that only brought us closer together.”
Brodie, who grew up in the same area as Simpkin, said his housemate struggled through the injury because he was a long way from friends and family.
“It was a difficult one because Jy is usually the one who is up and about,” Brodie told Aflplayers.com.au.
“To see him not being able to play footy was the worst possible result for his dream.
“He’s usually the cheery one but we tried our best to get him as positive as possible. Myself and Dion Johnstone, who was drafted to Melbourne, brought it upon ourselves to keep him going in the right direction.”
Simpkin and Brodie’s paths to AFL football are strikingly similar.
The duo played against each other all throughout the junior comps in the Shepparton region before combining their talents for various representative sides and eventually attending Scotch College together for their final few years of high school.
The pair were more rivals growing up, constantly trying to outdo each other on the field and Brodie remembers specific tactics executed during matches to curb Simpkin’s influence.
“I think it was in Grade Four and we played against Jy and Mooroopna and Jy was this skinny kid with basically a huge afro.
“We came in at quarter time and the coach told us not to kick it near the kid with the moppy hair and that was basically the game plan for the rest of the day.”
When it comes to the two away from the field, Simpkin is the character and Brodie tends to cop the brunt of his mate’s jokes.
“Will’s a funny sort of guy and he’s really professional with everything he does,” Simpkin said.
“He’s always really serious so a few of us other boys like to get stuck into him a fair bit which is a lot of fun.”
But Brodie isn’t so sure about Simpkin’s humour or his determination outside of the footy field.
“He definitely thinks he’s pretty funny. He recently bought a guitar and tried to learn, I was teaching him for a bit, but he gave up within a month, so that didn’t work out.”
While Brodie has made the move north after being drafted to Gold Coast, Simpkin has settled in at North Melbourne.
With both players selected in the first round of last year’s draft, it’s likely the pair will feature in an AFL game in 2017 and they have until Round 6 or Round 15 to force their way into their respective sides’ best 22 to playoff against each other like old times.
If that comes to fruition, what can we expect?
“If we clash on the field, I’d sledge him for sure. They’d be coming out left, right and centre I’d say,” Simpkin said.
Not one to say much on the field, Brodie might take a more physical approach.
“If we met on the field, I reckon I’d belt him a few times.”