CRAIG Bradley, Carlton’s career games record holder with 375, has acknowledged the on-field durability of Kade Simpson, who this Saturday night bids football adieu after game No. 342.
In a 17-season on-field tenure which brought abundant reward both individually and collectively, Bradley, like Simpson, never sought fanfare.
But the dual Carlton Premiership player, three-time Best and Fairest and Captain made an exception in this instance, in paying heartfelt tribute to ‘Simmo’ in this the last of his 18 seasons in the long sleeve No.6.
“He (Simpson) has been a warrior for so long. He’s been dependable - someone who could be relied upon,” Bradley said.
“He’s been fantastic in the way he’s been able to represent the Carlton Football Club. He’s been brilliant all the way through and it’s been a credit to him, to the club and to everyone.”
Eminently qualified in terms of League football longevity, Bradley put Simpson’s durable existence at the elite level down to a combination of factors.
“To be able to play for so long requires a lot of things. Yes, it’s a little bit of luck - and it’s not so much luck with injury as everyone gets injured - but it’s the type of injury you get,” Bradley said.
“Broken bones or damaged knees make it harder, but Kade’s dedication to his sport plays a far greater part than luck.”
The matchday records attest that Bradley’s and Simpson’s playing days almost overlapped. The former went out in Round 19, 2002 - appropriately enough against his former team Port Adelaide at Princes Park - in a contest that earned him broken ribs, a punctured lung and three Brownlow votes.
The latter was named for the 11th round match of the following year – the Geelong game at Telstra Dome on Sunday, June 8 – when he famously failed to trouble the statisticians.
Bradley’s low-key farewell to the game was typical of his nature. It came by way of a written statement through the AFL that caught everyone – including the Carlton Football Club – off-guard, and read in part:
I have many people to thank and will do so in the coming weeks. I would however like to thank the Carlton Football Club and the Port Adelaide Football Club for many wonderful times and for their influence in helping to shape my life. To leave the game with a bit left in the tank and in good personal form makes me feel good.
In thinking back to his retirement, Bradley conceded that the life-changing adjustment from elite athlete to civilian did not come easy – and that Simpson would similarly face a seismic change.
“In any walk of life it’s hard to walk away after 20 years – and to change your return is a pretty abrupt change,” Bradley said.
“It has its challenges, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s just another test of who you are as a person . . . and he (Simpson) is the sort of guy who will make the transition whichever way he goes.”
In June 2018, on the eve of Simpson’s 300th match, against Port Adelaide at the MCG, Bradley and fellow club 300-game players Bruce Doull, John Nicholls and Stephen Silvagni gathered with Simpson for a famous photograph, captured by Michael Willson, in the shadows of the Ald. Gardiner Stand on the old Princes Park ground.
Thinking back to that historic occasion, and the opportunity to compare notes with Simpson, Bradley also wanted to place on record the player’s inherent good nature.
As he said: “‘Simmo’s’ a ripping guy off the field, he’s very giving, so hat’s off to him for sure”.
DOB : October 23, 1963
Carlton Player No.: 931
Debut: R1, 1986 vs Hawthorn, aged 22 years, 159 days
Last game: R19, 2002 vs Pt Adel, aged 38 years, 291 days
Premiership Player: 1987, 1995
Hall of Fame: 1995 (elevated to Legend)
Best and Fairest: 1986, 1988, 1993
All-Australian: 1986, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997
Team of the Century: Wing
Int’l Rules vs Ireland: 2000, 2001 (captain), 2002
DOB: May 5, 1984
Carlton Player No.: 1066
Career: 2003 - 2020
Debut: R11, 2003 vs Geelong, aged 19 years, 33 days
AFL Rising Star Nominee: Round 18, 2005
Stand-in Captain: 2007
Leadership group: 2007-2014, 2016-2019
Best & Fairest: 2013
International Rules Series vs Ireland: 2006, 2008
Jim Stynes Medallist: 2008
The Carlton 22, Kade Simpson’s first match - Round 11, Sunday, June 8, 2003, The Dome
B: Andrew McKay (a/c) Mick Martyn Lance Whitnall
HB: Ryan Houlihan Karl Norman Simon Wiggins
C: Bret Thornton Simon Fletcher Simon Beaumont
HF: Jarrad Waite Corey McKernan Scott Camporeale
F: Brad Fisher Brendan Fevola Matthew Lappin
Foll: Barnaby French Anthony Koutoufides Trent Sporn
i/c: Adrian Hickmott (a/vc) Darren Hulme Jonathon McCormick