AFL season 2016: No time to waste, says excited Blue Kade Simpson

Kade Simpson is set to become only the 12th Blue to notch at least 250 matches.
Kade Simpson is set to become only the 12th Blue to notch at least 250 matches. Photo: Getty Images

Apart from a premiership, Kade Simpson has just about seen it all during his time with Carlton.

He joined the Blues in the 2002 national draft, as their first pick but 45th overall, after they had been banned from using their top four picks — the top two to be used on Brendon Goddard and Daniel Wells — for salary cap rorts.

He endured the tough years under Denis Pagan when the list was modest and the club was broke. The Brett Ratten-era brought Chris Judd and some success, but the joy ended too quickly. Then came the linking with super coach Mick Malthouse, but that ended in rancour last year.

Now under the fresh face of Brendon Bolton, the Blues have reset. Boasting some impressive draftees, emerging star Patrick Cripps and some older types keen to show they are still a force, they hope that a rebuilding can spur a quicker-than-expected rise.

"I have gone into it this year not wanting to waste any more time," Simpson said. "I am in the twilight of my career. Pretty much every moment I am in here I am trying to do something to get better, or help guys to improve, because I am the oldest by a couple of years, and I don't want to waste another second,.


"Remembering back when I was just a young fella, you are just happy to be in a club, and you want to play round one, and you are not focused too much on the results. Now at the back-end, it's all about results for me.

"I am trying to drive as many people and pull as many people along as I can, to switch their focus quicker and get them on the same page because we are in a results-based industry really, and I don't want to waste the last couple of my years dwindling down at the bottom."

That's something Simpson, 31, is all too familiar with, for the Blues have finished at the foot of the ladder four times in their storied history - three during his time at the club.

While Simpson does not chase personal accolades, the 242-game veteran will be celebrated when he becomes only the 12th Blue to notch at least 250 matches. All going well, this year he is also also set to pass the longevity of Stephen Kernahan (251), Brett Ratten (255) and Alex Jesaulenko (256).

The Blues know there is much work to be done, possibly even more pain, before finals can again be a reality, but there is an optimistic feeling that improvement is afoot. And Bolton has not wasted a minute since leaving the Hawks, with players often at the club from 7am to 5pm.

"With Brendon and all the new coaches coming in, and a lot of new players as well, we are cramming a lot into the days - not a lot of downtime," Simpson said. "We have 30 or 40 minutes for lunch, then it's back into meetings with other rotations and weights and conditioning and that sort of stuff."

Under a new coach, there has been much to learn. Naturally, this involves a new game, and it's here Bolton will introduce a tighter team defence and quicker ball movement, entrusting his players to make the right call offensively.

" 'Bolts' is big on letting the players make the decision. He is going to put a lot of things in place the way he wants us to play but, in the end, it's going to be up to the players," Simpson said.

"He will give the players plenty of options. Then it's up to the players to pick the right one and take the right mode of transport, really."

That's the type of faith Alastair Clarkson has had in his Hawks - but it means the Blues must regularly hit targets if the aggressive, inboard option is taken, otherwise they will be punished on the rebound.

Bolton's upbeat manner during news conferences in 2014 when he filled in as senior coach for an ill Clarkson was refreshing but surprised some in the industry. The former school teacher has bristled at suggestions he would not be tough enough in the top role - and hasn't been afraid to keep the Blues firmly grounded through a demanding summer.

"He is very calm, and always teaching stuff, but I think when the boys are getting a bit too comfortable he will give a little rocket, remind them why we are at the club and what we are doing," Simpson said.

"I actually said to him the other day, I enjoyed one of the sprays he just gave because it put everyone back on edge because when you are training so much with no games, everyone can be up and about, and everything is going smoothly, because you don't have a win-loss record.

"To just have everyone back on edge, and [to remind them of] the purpose of why they are at the club, he is very good at picking up on moods and trends in players to make sure they are switched on."

The Blues will need to be just that — switched on — to ensure they no longer finish last in terms of points for (69.3) and against (107) as was the case last season.

In No.1 draft pick Jacob Weitering, a key defender, and utility Charlie Curnow, Simpson believes the Blues have already unearthed two boys ready to play senior football.

Ruckman Matthew Kreuzer and midfielder Bryce Gibbs are healthy, while skipper Marc Murphy has almost fully mended after shoulder surgery.

It's also hoped Levi Casboult, former Sun Daniel Gorringe, former Giant Jed Lamb and Kreuzer, when sent forward, and even draftee Harry McKay have an impact inside attacking 50.

"With a new coach coming in, and a fresh game plan, you definitely are very optimistic," Simpson said.

"With a bit of luck with injuries, I really rate our list, and we have younger guys coming through and a lot of our senior guys have plenty of good football left in them.

"Outside of the four walls of the club, [people say]: 'It's a rebuild, it's going to take time.' But we are not wasting a second. The Bulldogs and other clubs have done it [rebuilt]. West Coast was another one who were down and out and really regenerated quickly as well. It's definitely what we will be looking to do."

Kade Simpson on:

Jacob Weitering (2015 No.1 pick – defender):

"He is very impressive, very calculated, composed ... around the change rooms, out on the field. He is mature for an 18-year-old and physically he is developed and ready to step straight into senior footy. I have done a fair bit of work with him down in the backline. He just wants to learn, always asking questions. He understands the game plan straight away."

Harry McKay (No.10 – forward):

"He just wants to learn, wants to work hard. For a big guy, he is impressive around the two-kilometre time trial. He has big, long hands and is a good contested mark - probably needs to put on a bit of size but he just turned 18 in December. In a couple of pre-seasons, he will probably run around at 105 kilograms - he could be a scary unit."

Charlie Curnow (No.12 – utility):

"Charlie has probably been nearly the most impressive of all the draftees for me. He can play everywhere - he has been playing in the midfield, up forward, down the track could even slot across half-back as well. He has a great pair of hands. Like Weitering, he is probably ready for senior footy straight away and, like his brother [Ed], has a really good engine as well."

David Cunningham (No.23 – midfielder):

"Really impressed with his stoppage work - in close, his lateral movement. A couple of times he has come through a stoppage and blind turned a guy and dished off with the hands - you stand back and think: 'This guy is only 18, what's he doing?' He doesn't look out of place at all against the likes of Cripps and Gibbs and Murphy and those guys. I reckon he would play quite early as well."

Jack Silvagni (father-son, forward):

"One of the nicest kicking actions for goal you will see. He has a beautiful routine and I think he is going to kick a lot of goals for the club."