Evading Father Time: Kade Simpson and Jimmy Anderson

Watching sport is different this year. It’s only through screens, often alone. Our community’s conversations have altered too. Some commentators have turned cheerleaders, and once dyed in the wool partisan hacks are openly discussing the value of distraction. Apparently, now, it’s ‘only a game.’ Watching is most different because we, the viewers, have changed. Our fitness and mortality have been brought into sharp focus. Society’s treatment of the elderly, our relationship with consumerism and career choices are under review. We’re tired, but have been afforded time for reflection.


Sitting with all this change, sport fans are seeking a reminder of yesteryear. Some comfort, constancy. Examples of what’s still possible. At first, marathon consumption of classic matches sufficed. Some brave souls even ventured away from the remote for a few weeks. Now, with winter dragging and Melbourne ensconced within indefinite lockdown, the return of competition has been a bright spot. On different continents – but our same screens – Kade Simpson and Jimmy Anderson have been welcome performers this month.


Australians look back on the start of this century with golden-hour fondness: Georgie Gregan, Steven Bradbury, Nikki Webster and all that. Simpson’s 2003 debut saw him run onto Colonial Stadium alongside Andrew McKay and Anthony Koutoufides, ultimately facing defeat at the hands of Ben Graham and Peter Riccardi’s Geelong. Offered limited game time by Dennis Pagan, Simpson would go three matches before registering a disposal. Jimmy Anderson’s international career had commenced six-months prior, four kilometres up the road at the MCG. His first wicket was the prized scalp of Adam Gilchrist, although not before England conceded a partnership of 225 between he and Ricky Ponting (still a record for the ground).


Both careers began to excel in the mid-to-late noughties. The long-sleeved Simpson became a club favourite before eventually gaining league-wide acclaim with All Australian nomination in his 14th season. James Anderson was more quickly acknowledged by his brethren, one of five Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 2008.


2020 is ostensibly the twilight of these men’s careers. The trouble is, someone forgot to tell them. This weekend saw Kade flushed in the face with an errant Sherrin, with force that would’ve laid flat most payers. Within 30-seconds he’d sprinted across field to take a relieving mark. A day earlier Anderson had hit the kneecap of Shan Masood with such force that he needn’t have turned to appeal. He’s now dismissed Masood, his opposite number, on 7 occasions for 34 runs. Anderson’s approach to the crease continues to be lighter than reasonably expected for his six-foot-two stature. There are no international matches scheduled at Lords for the foreseeable future and Anderson will not be agitating for selection with Lancashire if they’re scheduled there. As it stands, he won’t have to limber up beneath father time this season.


Father Time at Lord’s.


Simpson retains the same lean, sinewy figure that has defied Newton’s laws for so long. His ability to block the space hunted by larger forwards continues to be uncanny. For the remainder of the season he’ll find himself two state borders away from Lygon Street, bathing his aching joints in warm saltwater each morning. Spectators are most compelled by the physical prowess of these sportsmen live, sat amidst weather and atmos. Cable telly will have to suffice for the time being.


Simpson enjoys admiration in a manner that previous generations of Royal Parade occupants would never have found outside of their tent. It’s not unusual for me to receive text messages from Essendon and Geelong fans praising his tenacity. This respect is hard-earned, with no previous player suffering the indignity of 200 league defeats. Approaching the individual honour of the most consecutive matches, this shy team-first player was spared limelight by a flying Sharrod Willingham hip.


Anderson’s relationship with Australian fans is more vexed. It’s unclear exactly where it splits, but there remains a binary sense of idealisation and devaluation when discussing his relative skillset. Snuffs who view neutral test matches cannot sing his praises loudly enough. Zinc-cream, flag-cape wearing inhabitants of the southern stand are quick to point out his skewed average on sun-baked drop-in pitches. One suspects that Jimmy gained a form of pre-emptive revenge against this kind of fan when clipping Michael Clarke’s ear with a batting pad in the Adelaide dressing rooms. Anderson spends his spare time with Indie Rock musicians and is likely impervious to the taunts of the Aussie, Aussie, Aussie crew.


As we lie prostrate on our couch, games blurring into one, the gaits of familiar players awaken our interest. Both of these men continue to thrive into their mid-thirties and beyond. To make the ‘fine wine’ analogy would be to misunderstand Simpson, who’s surely more likely a rum drinker. Five years ago, I found myself making a pre-dawn airport run. Returning to town, I stopped at Princes Park for a brief wander. Lacing my shoes, a second vehicle entered the carpark: Simmo driving a mud-caked non-sponsor issued four-wheel drive. The only other footballer I’ve seen at a club so early is Bob Murphy. Could it be that there’s more to durability than being a rangy flanker?


The excellence of Anderson’s third act could be underscored by any number of statistics, but I urge the reader to consider their ‘eye-test.’ When was the last time a batsman looked assured facing him in English conditions? How could you be, when any minute he could coerce a gentle nick to first slip? At times the batter appears a passive observer in a predetermined contest. Like Simpson, his economy of stride must surely prevent niggles. Fast bowling and Australian football are brutal vocations and there’s reasons why the average career lifespan is short. Riches enabling Lebron James and Christiano Ronaldo to hire private chefs evade this pair. Inclination to post instagrammable workouts are also not their way. These gentlemen are self-driven escapees of father time, and we’re barracking for them harder than ever from isolation.


Stood amongst a bay of black and white on a sodden May afternoon in 2016 I saw something I never expected to. Pirouetting past a tackle, Simpson hit Casboult’s chest with a spearing right-foot pass. My mouth open in shock, I was punched in the arm by a stranger who had noticed my Navy scarf beneath my coat: “We’re gonna spoil their party! Fancy that! Simmo usually can’t kick over a jam tin on his right.” Whilst right-foot kicks remain a rarity (he’s usually quick enough to gain room), they’re no longer a shock. Could developing their skills late in the piece be a contributor to sticking around? Spectator old dogs see this and are inspired to use our hour of allotted exercise to attempt new tricks.


When will we next stand with friends and a beer at the football? Our calendars pause or accelerate depending on the tone of a daily press conference. Buried in this heaviness, we’re lucky to have familiar faces on our screen. Our weddings are off, our next holidays are unclear. We don’t deserve more uncertainly and change, especially not via forced retirements. The ECB and CFC owe it to us to look after off-field matters whilst prolonging on-screen joy. Long-live Jimmy, long-live Simmo. Father time can stay put.




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Walking distance to Princes Park.


  1. Shane- thanks for this. Some beautiful observations on both. I especially liked your story of seeing Simpson at the club in the pre-dawn dark and it reminded me of seeing Dennis Armfield in the gym at the Fiji resort I was at years ago and being impressed by his commitment and drive. He became a favourite after this and I liked seeing him do well.

  2. John Butler says

    Shane, both these athletes share a lightness on their feet. I think that must be a factor in their durability.

    It is a lightness that is no doubt a function of how hard they’ve worked, as well as any natural endowment.

    Simmo has been the heart and soul of Carlton through some very lean times. Likewise, Anderson (and his great partner Broad) have epitomised English cricket for a very long time.

    Really enjoyed this piece.


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