“I HOPE I’ve done the jumper proud.”
After 18 years of being the quiet achiever, Kade Simpson may have saved his biggest understatement until the end.
Tuesday marked the end of an era when Simpson announced his retirement in front of the Carlton playing group, confirming that Saturday’s game will be his 342nd and final game.
Third on Carlton’s all-time player list, the 2013 John Nicholls Medallist and loved by everyone in Navy Blue, there’s no doubt among anyone that the skinny kid from the Eastern Ranges got everything out of himself.
And while there have been tough times that Simpson has had to endure, he prefers to look back at the moments which stood out for the better in his time at the Club which has lasted for more than half his life.
“Every time you pull on the Navy Blue jumper is pretty special,” Simpson said.
“Who would’ve thought I would’ve played 300-plus games? The first few years, I struggled to get out on the park. To eventually play 300-plus is pretty special.
“Now that it’s all over, I can sit back and enjoy that.”
Always quietly spoken, Simpson always preferred that his actions did the talking: you don’t have to look far to find vision of Carlton’s No.6 recklessly throwing himself towards the ball or going back with the flight.
For every ounce of courage, Simpson had just as much skill, and it’s what made him loved by Carlton fans, coaches and teammates alike.
In the immediate moments after Simpson announced his retirement, three key faces of Carlton’s immediate future were quick to speak up and praise their outgoing teammate.
“I was pretty overwhelmed to hear guys like ‘Crippa’ and ‘Doc’ who are captains of the Club [speak up], and Sammy Walsh,” he said.
“I suppose - as guys - you don’t really talk about that stuff too much. I was exactly the same as they were: I just looked and took it all in on what the older guys did, trying to model myself on how they prepared and how they went about their footy.
“It’s really nice to hear that I’ve had that effect on the guys. You don’t notice it too much or speak about it too often.”
Particularly in recent years, Simpson has become synonymous with two things: his longevity, and his long sleeves.
Passing on the torch to the next generation of Blues, Simpson said there were two Sams who he believed could pick up the respective traits of the outgoing warrior.
“There’s no player like [Walsh] in the way he’s stepped onto the scene: his work-rate is already unbelievable, he’s a competitor and he’s a serious player. He might take me down, he might take ‘Braddles’ down and play 380 the way he’s going,” he said.
“I think Samo rocks the long sleeves pretty well at the moment. He’s got the half-back in him too.”
On numerous occasions in his interview with Carlton Media, Simpson mentioned that he would now be a fan and follow his club intently from a different lens.
Speaking first-hand, he said it would be important for Carlton supporters to continue to keep the faith.
“I’ve seen how hard everyone is working to get this club back to where it belongs. Hopefully that’s not too far away,” he said.
“I know the way ‘Teaguey’ is pushing these guys and the way ‘Crippa’ and ‘Doc’ are leading the senior guys. The group is definitely on the right path.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’d love to see Caleb Marchbank get a serious run at it, Charlie as well.
“I can sit back as a supporter now and enjoy the ride.”