Simon Black – Champion bloke and a Champion Footballer

The word champion is used quite a lot in sporting circles these days, so much so that some commentators may say that someone is a champion player even though they have only played a handful of games. To try and distinguish between high quality players people will not just use the term champion anymore but instead terms like ‘absolute champion’ or ‘true champion’ and even go as far as saying things like ‘a true icon of the game’ or ‘a legend of the game’ to try and explain how great a player is.

When it comes to Simon Black all of these descriptions and more can be used to describe him not only as a footballer but also as a person. This week Simon Black will play his 300th game for the Brisbane Lions and becomes only the third Lions player to reach the milestone of 300 AFL games (Alistair Lynch 306 and Marcus Ashcroft 318 are the other two) and the second player to play 300 games for the Brisbane Lions (Marcus Ashcroft is the other). I thought it was only fitting to have a brief look at this champion’s career.

It is interesting to note that even though many of people say he is a Western Australian native, Black was actually born in Mt Isa in Queensland (so I guess you could say he is a true Queenslander) before his family settled in Perth. Even though Black has never been renowned for his explosive speed (even Black himself considers himself as a bit of a plodder) there is no doubt he has great endurance which was evident during his school years when he was standout 800m and 1500m runner competing several times at the national level.

Despite being widely tipped as a first round prospect, Black was drafted by the Brisbane Lions with selection No.31 in the 1997 National Draft from the East Fremantle Football Club. After being impressive during the pre-season he earned his senior debut in Round 1 1998 against the Bulldogs at the Gabba and immediately showed his class. In 1998 Black consolidated himself as an automatic senior selection and built a reputation for winning the ball in contested situations playing 22 games that season and coming third in the AFL Rising Star award behind Sydney’s Adam Goodes and Adelaide’s Brett Burton. He polled nine votes in the Brownlow that year, more than his highly fancied team-mates Michael Voss and Jason Akermanis. After his first year you could tell that Simon Black was going to be not only be a good player but a great player for the Brisbane Lions (oops I sound like a modern day AFL commentator now). As the say the rest is history.

There are many things to like about Simon Black but for me there are a couple of things that come to mind. First is his consistency. Looking back I cannot remember Black having a bad year or a form slump even once during his career. This can be seen when you look at where he has come in the Brownlow Medal and Brisbane best and fairest during his career. Most people remember Black winning the 2002 Brownlow Medal (after being one of the favorites the previous year) but he has come close to being a triple Brownlow medalist after coming equal runner up in 2007 and also in 2008 (1 vote behind the winner Adam Cooney) and has polled a massive 173 votes so far. He has won the Brisbane Lions best and fairest three times and come runner up four times which is quite an achievement over his 14 year career (so far) considering some of the great players the Lions had over those years.

The second thing I like about Black as a footballer is the way he goes about playing the game – workmanlike and fair. For me as a Brisbane Lions supporter it was wonderful to see him win the Norm Smith medal in the 2003 grand final. His game that day was one that could have gone unnoticed even though he collected 39 disposals with Akermanis being his flamboyant self, kicking 5 goals and later saying he was surprised he missed out on being named best on ground (I think it was tongue in cheek but you can never be sure with Aker). The game Black played in the 2003 grand final (one of the great Grand Final performances in recent history if I do say so myself) was typical Blacky – in and under, unassuming, and effective with every disposal he got.

Even though Black has been heavily tagged right throughout his career, he has played the game fairly. Many a time he could have been excused for giving one of his taggers a clip behind play or a cheap shot but it speaks volumes about Black that he has only been reported once in his career and that was during the 2004 grand final (it must be noted that a few Lions had brain snaps that day – who could forget Alistair Lynch in his last game losing it and throwing hay makers at Daryl Wakelin in the goal square!!!!).

Finally not only is Black a great footballer but he is also a decent all round good bloke. He is the type of guy that every father hopes his daughter will bring home to meet the parents and one day get married too. He is loyal. There is no doubt that he would have been given offers from other clubs whenever his contract expired but has stuck with the Lions even though they would and some times could not have offered him as good a deal as what he deserved. But most importantly Black is a very humble guy even though his accolades could suggest otherwise.

In an interview for the Courier Mail on Monday Black talked about his career and what has caused him to become the player he is. When you read what he has to say, you just end up having more respect for the guy.

Here is bit of what was written and said:

AFTER 299 games and a trophy cabinet full of football’s highest honours, Brisbane great Simon Black still fears he is not good enough.

That fear has driven Black, 33, since his 1998 debut and will motivate him again against Geelong at the Gabba on Saturday night when he plays his 300th game.

It is hard to believe that a superstar with a Brownlow Medal and 173 career votes, a Norm Smith Medal, three premiership medals and who is a three-time All-Australian would ever doubt himself. But that is what pushes him.

“I’m obviously not the quickest or strongest bloke out there, so I need to be 100 per cent focused every time I play, (or) I’ll get shown up,” Black said.

“I just love footy. I know I’m probably not the player I was 100 games ago, but I still want to be better.

“I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been and it’s fear of failure that always drives me.”

As a skinny kid growing up in Perth, Black dreamed of playing just one AFL game. He cannot get his head around the fact he will enter the rarefied air of the 300-game club this weekend.

“It’s a bit surreal to be honest,” he said. “I don’t really know what else I can say. I know I will be shown the door in a year or two.

“But to play for so long and for such a great club like the Lions has been a great honour and a great thrill.

“I’ve also been lucky that my body has held up and I haven’t had that many injuries.”

Not surprisingly, Black rates the hat-trick of flags from 2001-2003 as the pinnacle of his decorated career.

I know on Saturday night as I sit down on the couch and watch Black run onto the Gabba to take on the Cats and play his 300th game I will get to my feet, raise my beer up in the air and make a toast to the man wearing the number 20 Brisbane Lions jumper – Simon Black, a champion footballer and a champion bloke.

About Andrew Weiss

Andrew is one of the few Brisbane Lions supporters that lives in the Adelaide Hills. He still has bragging rights over any Crows or Port supporter by mentioning the back to back to back premierships the Lions achieved in 2001-2003. After playing for over a decade for the mighty Adelaide Lutheran Football Club better known as ‘The Doggies’ he now spends his Saturdays running around footy ovals as an umpire, getting abuse no matter what decision is made. Coaching is probably next on the agenda as his two sons have started to play the great game of AFL. Andrew is a sports fanatic who when not watching or reading about sport is teaching secondary students about Biology, Nutrition and Psychology.

Comments

  1. Peter Flynn says:

    I reckon I’ll toast him as well.

    A great player.

  2. John Harms says:

    I have to do this because it is not often you get something right.

    I lived in Bris-vegas until Jan 2003. Great footy from 1995 until then. Early Brisbane when they were all young – Voss, Aker, Nigel Lappin, Lepper, mixed with Piggy Fletcher, Doc Clarke, Craig Lambert etc. They ran the ball magnificently.

    Then Simon Black arrived. And Leigh Matthews.

    I had a column in the Australian then. Monday morning. 1998-99.

    Here is part of a column on first noticing Simon Black:

    “And Simon Black (I suggest you remember that name) gets some brilliant touches in tight. He has everything, especially courage – the sort of courage which lifts team-mates. He runs and runs. He understands body movement. He has rare balance. He is strong on both sides, but prefers his left.”

    I recall one day on the Vulture St side, when he’d played just a handful of games, he sprinted to a loose ball which as he propped bounced awkwardly up and way from him. With three opponents converging and right against the boundary line he batted the Sherrin into the turf like a basketballer winning control. It came back to him. His eyes appeared to be elsewhere. All of this completely bambozzled those in the vicinity, and the Red Sea opened up. I recall looking at Brian Burke at that moment next to me in the press box (Brian, even by then, had seen it all) and he just smiled and shook his head.

    The rest is history.

    I am still a little disappointed he won the 2003 Norm Smith. I had backed Crackers (The Lawnmower) Keating at 50/1 and The Lawnmower (Only needed in September) ran second in the count – despite playing just 62 minutes.

    As much as I regard the brilliance of G. Ablett, his is often an individual performance. He is a different sort of player to Black and J. Selwood.

    Simon Black and Joel Selwood are creators and inspirers.

    Thanks Andrew, for the piece.

  3. Mark Doyle says:

    A good tribute Andrew. A true great of the game with incredible humility. I first saw him play a great game in 1999 on the MCG against North Melbourne and it was ‘a toss of the coin’ between Michael Voss, Peter Bell and Simon Black who was BOG. This was a great game which took a spectacular save from Byron Pickett to stop a Nigel Lappin goal. I also have good memories of his second half in the 2001 grand final and the 2003 grand final. I believe that one of the reasons that he has been a great player is his pysho motor skills; I once heard an interview with Kinnear Beetson, who was the Brisbane recruiting manager, and he said that Black and David Wirrpunda had the best pysho motor skills test results for AFL draftees in the previous ten years.
    I look forward to his 300th game against the Cats this week and hope for three brownlow medal votes.

  4. Andrew
    Great tribute to a great player.
    I did not realise he was not drafted until pick #31.

  5. Andrew – thanks for the insight into Simon Black. I love watching him play. He moves like a Rolls Royce.

    I reckon the Lions are a big chance this week end.

  6. Jamie Simmons says:

    Enjoyed that Andrew. Very much so. Still kills me that a die hard kangaroos friend of mine tipped him as a Brownlow winner in 98 and reminds me of it regularly. Lucky enough to have met him at several Lions functions and is an out and out gentleman. Here’s to 300 of the best, Blacky, cheers!

  7. Alovesupreme says:

    Fine tribute, Andrew.
    SB is one of the players who draws the admiration of opposition fans, because his high level of skill is matched by impeccable fairness. As Andrew notes, he has played at a remarkably consistent standard over his long career. That’s particularly commendable when he hit the career high-spots – team and individual – early on; yet he’s maintained an impressive level of performance during the barren recent years. Loyalty to team and team mates during tough times makes more demanding calls on a player’s worth. Simon Black has answered that in spades.

  8. Saw S. Black arrive at the airport when he was drafted getting picked up by Simon O’Donnell. Liked him straight away because he had a surfboard. Next time I noticed him was a pre-season intra club game where many players were getting blooded, in both senses of the word. He was tough and relentless at getting the ball out, consistently finding the open player to create opportunities.

    Loved him in the GFs, but especially the 2003 Norm Smith winning one. My first born son was born 4 days later and carries the monicker. Nuff said.

  9. In my opinion Simon Black was the best AFL player in the first decade of the 2000s.

    So thanks Andrew.

  10. pamela sherpa says:

    Superb player. Hope he plays a great 300th .Thanks for the article Andrew.

  11. Adam Muyt says:

    We had some beautiful players in those early-2000’s teams at Brisbane:, S.Black amongst them. Great tribute – thanks!

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