The twilight game on the Saturday when AFL footy returns is between two of the original VFL clubs, Carlton and Melbourne.
When Champion Data released their elite players list for 2019, I smiled from ear to ear.
One of the most underrated, understated and infinitely classy players in the competition made the list.
Kade Simpson – the bearded veteran has represented Carlton with passion who for close to two decades – was put in amongst the competitions best.
Some of Champion Data’s inclusions in the elite club have been questionable, however the fact he’s in that mix allows us to have this conversation.
Kade Simpson is wildly underrated, and here’s why.
Every club leads a player like Simpson. What stands out instantly when looking at the statistical spreadsheet is his consistency in getting on the field.
Since 2005 – when even then he managed a respectable 15 games – the smallest number of matches he has played in a season is 19, with the lowest since 2013 being 20. For a veteran, that’s genuinely remarkable.
That may not inherently speak to his ability or talent directly, but it does help state his value. Firstly, it indicates his importance to Carlton’s best 22, almost never watching from the stands. While Carlton may not have enjoyed anything remotely close to glory since that 2013 season, the value of Simpson to this club burns strong.
The consistency also relates to Kade’s professionalism. How many times have we seen veterans slow down and fade into obscurity, bouncing to another club and fading into the mist. From all reports, Simpson works his guts out at training and shows great leadership to the young players. For a side like Carlton, stuck in a perennial rebuild, a player like that is a diamond.
This leads to point No.2 of Simpson’s value: loyalty. Simpson has managed six finals since his career started in 2003.
Given he has played over 300 games, that’s a ridiculously small number. When I wrote a piece on Scott West recently, I complained that he’d played a low amount of finals, but he managed way more than what Kade has.
Given the lack of finals action and team success, you’ve got to credit the loyalty shown by Kade to not only stay at Carlton, but keep going with the same drive and work ethic as he has shown throughout his career. Loyalty is one of the most integral parts of a player’s value and Simpson demonstrates that.
Tying together Kade’s value is his on-field ability. He is a quiet achiever who is able to get about his business with the same level of consistency, which lies at a very high standard.
Simpson probably won’t be your best player, but is crucial to have. Over his 16 seasons, his disposal average is 21.4, which ranks him in the elite statistical category. That probably caught you by surprise, didn’t it?
Last year he finished seventh in the league for rebound 50s, with 109, and averages 2.8 across his career. It’s an overlooked statistic – the ability to send the ball into transition is such an important part of the game – and Simpson is one of the best in the industry at it.
He’s also had above 80 in all of the last four seasons, as well as above 75 in the last six. As for season 2019, so far he’s going at 19.5 disposals per game, exemplifying the fact that he still clearly has what it takes. Hard to argue with the value of those numbers.
Unquantifiable by stats, his on-field leadership is another component of what makes him valuable to the team. Carlton need on-field leaders with such a young side and Simpson provides that, playing a key role in organising the back line during the game.
What baffles me is the lack of Brownlow votes he has been awarded. Simpson has never had double digit Brownlow votes in a season, getting nine votes twice.
That stat is a key component of why this piece exists. The value that he has lies in what he can bring to the table across the board. He is wildly underrated as a player, most likely due to the fact he plies his trade down the bottom end of the ladder.
Move him to a club like Sydney for 16 years and he becomes widely regarded as one of the league’s stars.
Kade Simpson is consistently flying under the radar, playing the Robin to Patrick Cripps’ Batman, even at 34.
Having had arguably his best season to date in 2018 and continuing that form into 2019, he seems capable of going on for at least another two or three seasons at a relatively high level.
If he manages that, expect the competition’s workhorse to have a games tally up there with some of the best of all time.