The Port Adelaide Power have started their AFL finals campaign in impressive fashion, putting in a commanding second-half display to defeat Geelong in their qualifying final at the Adelaide Oval.
The list of retirees grows as four more club top 100 game players (including one AFL top 100 game player) announced the end of their distinguished careers before Round 18 begins.
Heading the list is Carlton stalwart Kade Simpson after 19 years at the Blues. Simpson did not have an easy introduction into league football after being picked up as Carlton’s first choice in the 2002 Draft. He played his first game in Round 11, 2003 and – unlike three of the players profiled in the first part of this article – he did not kick a goal with his first kick. In fact, he did not get a disposal in his first three games and had to wait until Round 11, 2004 for his next chance and played only three games in that season as well.
By 2005, Simpson had become a regular member of the team and kicked three goals in a game two weeks in a row, a feat he repeated another seven times in his career. Over the next six years, he did not miss a game, playing all 22 home-and-away games and four finals. His run of consecutive games came to an end in July 2012 when he sustained a broken jaw. He continued to show amazing resilience and in his final year has played every game so far, to survive as the last member of the 2002 draft. His partnership with Marc Murphy was the second-most frequent Carlton partnership, and the eighth-most ever in the league.
He had to wait patiently for 109 games before he played his first final, and has the unwanted record of playing in the most losses in VFL/AFL history. Simpson wore the number six jumper with distinction throughout his whole career and only one AFL player has worn it more.
If he plays in Round 18, Simpson will move to 19th on the AFL top 100 game players list of all-time and is already number three at Carlton behind Craig Bradley and Bruce Doull, and – despite having not kicked a goal since Round 19, 2019 – currently shares equal 56th place on the Blues top 100 goal scorers list.
A patient, determined and resilient player, Simpson deserves his place at the table of Carlton greats.
Another player who deserves recognition for his patience and determination is Essendon’s Tom Bellchambers. Bellchambers was one of many Bombers to miss all of the 2016 season as a result of the ASADA suspensions and in six of his 12 AFL seasons played ten games or fewer. Despite this, and being overtaken by Zach Merrett on the Bombers’ games played list this season, in Round 9 he drew level with former players Ken Timms, Adam Ramanauskas and Mark Baguley in 99th position on the club’s top 100 game players list.
Since then he has played two further games and now sits in 95th position with Jim Anderson and Max Crow. Bellchambers fell eight goals short of being a top 100 goalkicker at Essendon.
At Hawthorn, two long-serving champions of the club have also declared their careers over. Captain Ben Stratton has represented the club in 201 games over 11 years, becoming the 36th Hawk to achieve the 200-game total. Stratton scored his solitary goal in Round 19 of his debut year (2010) and in 184 games since has failed to repeat the achievement, but if he plays this Round he will join Geoff Ablett as 33rd on the club’s game list.
Paul Poupulo will fall just short of the 200-game milestone, having played 195 games in his 10-year career to date, but his 182 goals will see him retire as the 33rd greatest goalkicker at Hawthorn and ensure him of a seat at any top 100 functions the Hawks may run for many years to come.