It’s been a long and winding road for Jonathan Simpkin. After initially spending time on Sydney’s rookie list, the 25-year-old found a home for two years at Geelong, showing promise in the handful of senior games he played, before being cut at the end of last year. After being picked up by Hawthorn as a delisted free agent, Simpkin played several games as the ‘super sub’, providing an impact with fresh legs in limited game time. Given the Hawks’ strong list, he has been in and out of the senior team this year, despite impressing at VFL level.
On Sunday, he won the Norm Goss medal for best on ground in the VFL Grand Final as the Box Hill Hawks beat Geelong, the team with which he won the VFL Grand Final last year. On Saturday, he will finally achieve his dream of playing in an AFL Grand Final. His stellar performance on Sunday that netted him 30 disposals and two goals was enough to earn him a call up to replace the injured Brendan Whitecross. Simpkin says that there aren’t too many differences between Geelong and Hawthorn, both being “very professional” in their approach, but that the training during the week feels the same, only “in a different place”. It would seem that this continuity in approaches to training and club philosophy has held him in good stead to continue his solid run of form this season.
Simpkin is an unassuming young man who takes it all in his stride. He says he only had a few mixed feelings on beating the team with which he had spent two years with. “A little bit. I’ve still got a lot of friends there who played earlier today, and obviously premiership teammates from last year, but…I’ve been at Hawthorn twelve months now, and I’m just focused on the job and happy to get the win”.
Simpkin was also non-committal about his chances of earning a grand final berth based on his outstanding performance. “We’ll have to wait and see, see what the coaches decide during the week. There’s a handful of guys who can come in to replace…it’s out of my control so we’ll just wait and see what the coaches decide”. The other players Simpkin was referring to were fellow VFL premiership players in Shane Savage, Jed Anderson, Taylor Duryea and Matt Spangher, all of whom have had successful stints in the Hawk’s AFL side this year. That Simpkin has managed to win the call-up ahead of his teammates is a credit to his persistence and hard work over the past few years. Fortunately for Simpkin, the cards fell his way and the coaches decided that he was to be the inclusion, potentially as the substitute.
Jonathan Simpkin is in the unique position of winning three premierships within two years, something that very few get to experience. Regardless of how he performs, it provides a fantastic feel-good story of someone who has been cut not once, but twice from AFL lists and has continued to perservere in order to earn a Grand Final spot. While he won’t be expected to dominated the contest, one thing’s for sure: come Saturday, there’ll certainly be one player who won’t be taking this opportunity for granted.