“HE HASN’T been spoken about enough, how well he’s come back and picked up where he left off after his All-Australian year.”
Between 2014 and 2017, a constant for Carlton fans was the partnership of Kade Simpson and Sam Docherty across half back.
The duo was crucial to the way the Blues played, never more so than in 2016 when the John Nicholls Medal ended with Docherty and Simpson as one and two.
Of course, Simpson was someone who Docherty watched closely: in this year’s AFL Record poll, the co-captain said Carlton’s No.6 was his favourite player growing up.
After two years of waiting, the two have been reunited in Navy Blue on the playing field: and Kade Simpson couldn’t be happier to have his mate by his side.
“Being similar players, we probably formed a pretty close friendship and relationship on field, so it has definitely been tough not having him out there for the last couple of years,” Simpson said.
“Seeing what he’s gone through and when he did the knee the second time, it was heartbreaking: not only for him, but for a lot of his teammates.
“It’s great having him back out there now. He obviously gets a lot of attention from the opposition, which takes a little bit away from myself. That’s a bonus.”
For two players who are so similar, the struggles of 2018 and 2019 for Docherty couldn’t be more foreign to Simpson. While the co-captain missed 44 straight games, Simpson has missed precisely 10 games since Round 15, 2006.
The veteran can’t help but marvel at the way his counterpart has returned, with his 100th game approaching this weekend.
“The way he’s come back from doing two knees and two years out of footy — the game has changed so much, but he hasn’t missed a beat since he’s come back,” he said.
“He’s pretty much picked up where he left off after his All-Australian year.
“It’s an amazing effort, but I sort of always knew it was going to happen. The way he held himself and the way he carried himself through a couple of years of rehab and through some pretty dark times is a credit to himself.”
When asked to describe what he loved most about Docherty as a teammate, Simpson’s response was just about identical to the way Carlton supporters have described the No.6 himself.
Just don’t mention the favourite player thing.
“He’s such a reliable defender and player: his direction, he always helps out the boys, he’s very selfless coming off his own man trying to impact on others,” he said.
“He sees the game probably as good as anyone in the league. I know he’s a bit of a footy nerd, it definitely helps the team having that back out there.
“Me being his favourite player… it makes me feel even older now!”