Hi, I’m Simon Black…

The Walkerston sugar mill was deserted, save for a few journalists and footballers clad in puffy, blue safety suits.  The mill hadn’t been operational for weeks.  It didn’t smell like sugar.  There was no green tinge.  The overpowering scent was of deodorant.


The guide explained the mill machinations with tired accuracy.  The mill looked tired.  It was hardly pristine.  Sterile equipment isn’t required for crushing cane.


Cameron Wood stood tall next to Shaun Rehn.  Wood had played just one AFL game as he wandered the mill.  It had been five years since Rehn played his last game.  He wasn’t carrying any weight.


I shook Rehn’s hand, said hello and faked a smile.  I didn’t want to talk to Rehn, despite the interview opportunity.  He destroyed North Melbourne in the second half of the 1998 Grand Final.  I had no intention of reliving that.


I interviewed Luke Power, discussing Brisbane’s goodwill tour and his new role as Mackay’s AFL ambassador.  Power wanted to raise the profile of the AFL and the local competition.


I moved on to the next footballer.


‘Hi, I’m Simon Black,’ he said.  Black didn’t need to introduce himself.  I knew who he was.

We shook hands.  It was clear he didn’t recognise me.


‘I met you at the graduation,’ I said.  ‘I took a few photos of you and Catherine because you forgot to bring a camera.’


Black offered a small smile.  ‘That’s right,’ he said.


Catherine and I did the same journalism degree.  I talked to her a few times, mostly about football.  She read a couple assignments I’d written about football.


One of the assignments focused on men who played in a premiership, won their club’s best and fairest and a Brownlow medal in the same season.  I explained to Catherine that the AFL should do more to recognise those players.


Back in 2002, Black won the Brownlow, a best and fairest and a premiership.  Only eight men in the history of the game have won that treble in the same season.


Consider the following legends of the game:


Player Year Club
Syd Coventry


Albert Collier


Harry Collier


Bert Deacon


Bernie Smith


Ian Stewart


St Kilda
Simon Black


Gary Ablett Jnr




Black is in rare company…


Catherine didn’t need convincing about her boyfriend’s achievements.  By 2005 when we graduated, Black was already a legend of the game.


We talked about the 1999 preliminary final, when Black was belted by Mick Martyn.  I was at that game.  A few minutes after the incident, Black was a despondent figure walking around the boundary with ice on his face.


A fractured eye socket put him out of the game.  North won by 45-points.


Martyn was subsequently reported.  A few days later, Black lied to the tribunal.  His testimony and grainy vision ensured Martyn was somehow cleared of the charge.  He was lucky, because the tribunal got it wrong.


Years later, Black’s explanation for lying was simple.  He didn’t want to be responsible for Martyn missing out on a grand final.


Black bore no malice at the tribunal, but Catherine said he suffered for months with headaches and blurred vision.  She was angry with Martyn if her boyfriend wasn’t.


That anger burnned when we discussed the 2004 grand final.  As Port Adelaide got on top, Catherine said they began sledging.


‘They were dreadful,’ she said.


I suggested sledging without racism was acceptable if someone drops a mark, misses a target or kicks a point.  I reminded her that Brisbane weren’t renowned for being polite in finals, particularly against Collingwood.


She shook her head.  Port’s players had gone too far…


It was early 2006 as we walked around the sugar mill.  Black thanked me for the CD I sent of him and Catherine.  ‘I didn’t know she wanted me to take a camera,’ he said.  ‘She didn’t ask me to.’


We laughed.


Black was softly spoken, without arrogance or natural menace.  I liked that he introduced himself without assuming I knew who he was, despite his profile in Queensland and his name on the press release.


Though it is natural for people to introduce themselves, the way Black offered his hand was without regard for his status in the game.  He introduced himself as a person, not a star.  He was humble and polite.


That he forgot the camera showed he was no different to most men.  He just happened to play football.


Injury forced Black to retire a few weeks ago.  To keep playing was to risk permanent damage to his knee.  There is no doubt Black would’ve been handy for Brisbane in 2014.  His performance barely diminished as he aged.


He retires as one of the most decorated footballers in the game.  He played with purpose and influence, on the inside and outside.  He had ample time to dispose of the ball.


It’s been ten years since Black played in a premiership.  If he’s disappointed by that, three premierships, best and fairest awards, the Brownlow and a Norm Smith medal is ample reward.


Besides, he and Catherine are married now, parents to Lachlan.  There are other things in life to look forward to.


Lachlan is going to grow up surrounded by football.  It won’t take him long to realise his dad was a star.  He can watch DVDs, surf the internet and flick through photo albums featuring news stories and pictures of his dad.


Maybe he’ll come across a photo of his parents, taken the night Catherine graduated…


About Matt Watson

My name is Matt Watson, avid AFL, cricket and boxing fan. Since 2005 I’ve been employed as a journalist, but I’ve been writing about sport for more than a decade. In that time I’ve interviewed legends of sport and the unsung heroes who so often don’t command the headlines. The Ramble, as you will find among the pages of this website, is an exhaustive, unbiased, non-commercial analysis of sport and life. I believe there is always more to the story. If you love sport like I do, you will love the Ramble…


  1. Peter Fuller says

    I loved this tale. Simon Black has been an outstanding footballer and he deserves your timely reminder to us of just how exceptional he was. It’s also heartening to hear that he was self-effacing and gracious in your encounters with him. That’s the impression that his demeanour on the field has always suggested, and it’s reassuring that some of the best conduct themselves in a way that does credit to themselves and the game, as well as all those responsible for their upbringing as people and sportsmen.

  2. Neil Anderson says

    Fantastic to know he really is a humble champion off the field. He may be in elite company with his Brownlow, premierships etc. but he is also in elite company as a modest champion out of the hundreds of players that went before him. The only other one of his ilk that comes to mind is Chris Grant.
    Like Peter I ask myself, what did Simon’s parents do so right to end up with a son who is so respected? What a great role-model for those who decided to stay at Brisbane.

  3. Peter and Neil,
    I’ve met a few footballers across the journey and Simon stood out.
    I remember seeing Spida Everitt leaving the MCG with a bunch of mates after a final.
    Everitt and his crew were intimidating just to be near. It was the way they walked and looked around at people, almost daring bystanders to say something.
    I’m sure Spida is different now…
    Catherine was lovely too, very polite and respectful.
    And she didn’t broadcast that Black was her boyfriend. It wasn’t until the final year of uni that I found out she was dating him, and she only told me because I showed her my assignment.

  4. Lovely stuff, Iron Mike.

  5. An interesting insight into an undisputed champion player and person.
    A privelege to meet him for sure! Thanks for sharing Matt.

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