Currently sitting equal with the legendary John Nicholls on 328 games, Kade Simpson will this weekend move to third on the list of Carlton all-time most games played.
In honour of this achievement, we’re taking a look back at some of the most memorable moments from what has been a timeless career.
1. With pick number 45, the Carlton Football Club selects…
It all started back in 2002 when the skinny but talented 18-year-old from Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs joined the Navy Blues. While we’ve all known Simpson as a staple of Carlton’s backline in recent years, he initially impressed the recruiters as a goal-kicking wingman playing for the Eastern Ranges.
While this is the start of a famed Navy Blue story, it most importantly gave us this picture which we all cherish to this day. As a bonus fact, Simpson is the last remaining player from the 2002 draft on an AFL list.
2. First goal/first kick/fourth game
Simpson would spend most of his debut year playing with Carlton’s then-VFL affiliate, the Northern Bullants. After a series of impressive games, he would earn his chance at senior level against Geelong in Round 11, 2003. Playing off the bench and with very limited game time, Simpson would fail to record a possession in his first game.
In fact, it would take until his fourth game (played almost a year later) for the youngster to record his first kick. Making up for lost time, the talented left-footer would join the illustrious first kick, first goal club — albeit, in his fourth game. It was the game which would be remembered more for Brendon Fevola’s match-winning bomb from outside 50 to complete a fairytale win for the Blues against the Crows.
3. The streak:
With the uneasy start of his footy career far behind him, Simpson would go on to become one of the Blues’ most-reliable performers, largely across a wing. His resilience and toughness was one of the things fans loved about him the most.
Simpson’s ongoing durability should come as no surprise, when he played an incredible 158 consecutive games between 2005 and 2012 — a Carlton record, and the 13th longest streak in AFL/VFL history. The run would come to an end on a sour note, when Simpson fractured his jaw while courageously going back with the flight of the ball against old enemy Collingwood.
4. Halfway there:
Game No.150 presented an opportunity for Simpson to celebrate a win against a traditional rival, coming up against Essendon in Round 18 of 2011. In an emphatic display, the Blues would finish with a 74-point victory over the Bombers on the back of an emphatic second-half performance.
The game, made famous by Andrew Walker’s mark over Jake Carlisle, was also a game to remember for the milestone man who finished with 20 disposals of his own.
5. Best and Fairest:
Given a new role off the half-back line in 2013, Simpson produced one of his best seasons to date, capping it off with his first John Nicholls Medal. One of only five players to play in every single game for that year, the 29-year-old averaged 22 disposals and kicked six goals in a season where the Blues made a play into September.
It was just reward for a player who was the true embodiment of what it meant to bleed Navy Blue over his entire career, winning the award named after the man he’ll surpass this week.
6. Do it for Simmo:
While his 150th game may have been celebrated with an emphatic victory, game No.250 was a slightly more contested affair for Simpson and the Blues.
Playing against Port Adelaide in Round 8 of 2016, Simpson’s teammates were determined to not let the significance of the milestone go uncelebrated. Trailing by three goals with just six minutes left on the clock, the Blues pulled off one of their most memorable comebacks in recent times to make sure that the defender would have his day.
The ever-consistent Simpson would be integral across half back, recording 25 disposals, 10 marks and four tackles for the day: fittingly, the ball would end in his hands as he was mobbed by his teammates on the final siren.
7. The 300 club:
Bradley, Doull, Nicholls, Silvagni and Simpson. Few would have predicted that the skinny kid from the Eastern Ranges would go on to have his name recorded alongside some of the very best to ever have played for Carlton. However, over the course of his now 17 years at the Club, there is no doubt that Simpson’s name more than deserves to be up there.
The 300th game would come in Round 15 of 2018 against Port Adelaide. Unfortunately, this time there would be no fairytale finish as Port took away the victory, but it was by no fault of Simpson’s: he became just the second player ever to poll three votes in his 300th game.
In the lead-up to the game, Simpson spoke with passion about what the milestone meant to him, reaffirming his love for the Club and his pride in being able to pull on the jumper each week.
“I never thought my name would be put up next to those guys,” Simpson said of joining Carlton’s other 300-gamers.
“Carlton is my second home.
“I came straight out of high school, and apart from my parents, it’s the other single biggest influence in the way I’ve grown up and the person I am today. “