You don’t play at the highest level for 18 years unless you’re incredibly special.
You don’t play over 340 games unless you’re incredibly skilful and durable, and you certainly don’t play with the same courage and bravery for every single one of those games if you don’t have some serious heart.
Kade Simpson walked into a warzone when he first walked into the Carlton Football Club.
A club stripped of its draft picks, dignity and all the credibility and power it once had.
At Pick 45, they selected the small skinny kid from Emerald and Eastern Rangers.
That same small skinny kid would go on not only outlast everyone else in his draft class but finish third on the all-time games record list in the history of the Carlton Football Club.
Small in stature then and not much has changed now.
A small skinny man who would be seen more often than not in long sleeves.
It’s practically folklore to recount and remember that in his first three games he didn’t even touch the football.
As a late pick it could have been all over for him then and there.
By the time he earned his way back into the team he hardly missed a game.
The longest stretch of 158 consecutive games between 2005 – 2012 is a streak no one seems to be breaking anytime soon.
In an era of Free Agency and the ultimate chase for success, coin and glory.
Amid ample chances to leave and jump ship, Kade Simpson stayed loyal and true.
Through every change in coach and turnover of playing list, he was there playing with all the heart and soul always, leaving nothing out there.
He’s come to be admired by everyone because of the way he plays the game.
Not as flashy or a silky as some others that have come before him, but one who goes out and continues to be the blue collar, courageous player that everyone wants to have on their team going into battle.
Someone with a footy brain who will run all day and continually hunt the footy and use it to the best of his ability.
It was never about the high marks, the freakish goals, or any of the flashy stuff.
Though he was more than capable of producing it when he needed to, even late in his career.
For Kade Simpson it was about playing for the monogram on the front of that navy blue jumper which he wore with such distinction and pride.
Wearing his heart on that long sleeve every time he crossed that white line
onto the battlefield.
Whether it was the sprinting out of defence with several running bounces, a desperate lunge to touch a ball to save a goal, the complete disregard of his personal safety to go back with the flight of the ball or the constant conning of opposition players into thinking he had a right foot.
It was all the little things that won him over to the football world and the Carlton faithful.
He should be the player that footy fans admire and respect.
He should be the player who young kids model their work ethic on, no matter who they support.
More than that, he should be the player that other players follow.
Despite all the adversity and heartache the club has faced in his time there, he has continually led from the front and let his football do the talking.
Like a good bottle of wine, he has just gotten better with age.
He never let his club or his supporters down.
Always being the one to take it upon himself to perform the courageous act.
Always staying loyal and true to his football club, despite seasons of disappointing returns.
He never complained, he never sooked, he demanded the best from his teammates and he led by example.
A warrior and the heart and soul of the football club.
You might be able to replace a half back flanker, but you can never truly replace Kade Simpson and all that he brings.
Football fans under the age of 26 don’t know the Carlton Football Club without him, as the curtain comes down on a remarkable career.
While he might not have the accolades that the other members of the 300 club and the Carlton elite possess, make no mistake, he is every bit as revered a figure within the four walls at Princes Park.
Especially in the last 20 years.
To Kade Simpson, as a football community, we salute you.
Thank you for reminding us all that football is for everyone, for all shapes and sizes.
Thank you for playing the game in the right way and spirit every time.
Thank you for all your blood sweat and tears over the last 341 games and 18 years.
An absolute warrior of Carlton who deserves nothing more than four points on Saturday.