COLAC footballer Joffy Simpkin will make his AFL debut tonight, four years after almost giving up on his long-held ambition to play at the elite level.
Simpkin will be a part of the Geelong side which takes on Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium in what could be the most fulfilling chapter of his turbulent football journey.
The 24-year-old rookie yesterday said he was ready to give up his AFL dream in 2008 when injury struck him down early in his first season with the Cats’ VFL side.
But the calming words of then Geelong VFL coach Leigh Tudor convinced him to stick with the club.
“My first year back in 2008 I had a little injury at the start of the year and played a few games back at Colac and really enjoyed it, being with mates and having success,” Simpkin said.
“I rang up Leigh Tudor once and told him I wasn’t that keen to play any more but he talked to me and I went back,” he said.
“And when Tyson Hay took over at Colac I strongly considered playing there full time but I thought I’d give it another shot at Geelong.
“I’m so glad I did do that and kept pushing to play AFL footy.”
Simpkin received news he was “in the mix” to take on the Dogs from Geelong coach Chris Scott early in the week.
A second phone call on Wednesday – while he was enjoying a day off – confirmed he would debut, although Simpkin was unsure if he would start on the field or as a substitute.
Simpkin said he was “a little bit nervous and excited all together” about lining up alongside the likes of Joel Selwood, who has helped him develop his contested ball skills.
Current Geelong VFL coach Matthew Knights has also been central to his rise in the eyes of Cats officials.
“My form over the last month compared to the first few games has been a lot better,” Simpkin said.
“I sat down with Matthew Knights about a month ago and had a good chat to him, set out a few things that would hopefully get me in the senior team sooner rather than later,” he said.
“I’ve been playing more a midfield role, inside midfielder working on the contested stuff.”
Simpkin had his first taste of life as a professional footballer after Sydney drafted him with pick 16 in the 2005 rookie draft.
He won promotion to the senior side one season later but failed to play a senior game during his two seasons at the harbour city club.
He returned to Colac for season 2008 and took up on an offer to play with Geelong’s VFL side.
A breakthrough season 2010 – a year he played representative football and won team of the year selection – finished with Geelong drafting him with pick 56 in the rookie draft.
Simpkin joins his younger brother Tom, 21, in AFL ranks, with Tom establishing a place in St Kilda’s defence this season.