Simon Madden and the 5.07PM train from Moonee Ponds

They say you should never meet your heroes. On a bitterly cold Melbourne Tuesday evening, I left the mediocrity of a day shuffling papers at the office behind me and jumped on the 5.07pm from Moonee Ponds to Flinders Street. As I scanned the seats, I see the great Simon Madden going about his commute.



Simon Madden! In an instant I’m taken back to 1988 and the memory of scrummaging through the South Wagga Tolland Dons Football Club under 11s guernsey box trying to secure the coveted number 27 that my first footy hero Simon Madden wore (alas, the Dons operated on a tight budget and the jumper’s only went up to number 25).



Here I am, at age 41, married, father of two, home owner (technically 3% mine, 97% National Australia Bank owned) and all of a sudden I’m star struck. I’m 10 years old again and nervously pondering if I should approach my childhood sporting hero?



No, just let him go about his business, my thoughts tell me. He doesn’t need some balding flog in a $22 faded blue Van Heusen business shirt (that he forgot to iron and hoped to hide the collar under a jumper) get up in his face and want to talk about the ‘old days’ or ask for a selfie.



That may be the case, however, how many of us actually get to meet our first childhood footy hero in the flesh? I’ll kick myself if I let the moment pass.



I’m stuck in indecision.



I’ve met numerous sportspeople over the years in various guises. I’ve even met Prime Ministers, rock stars and Academy Award winning actors. Nerves never get me. There is something though it seems about meeting your first childhood footy idol.



Why Simon Madden? Growing up in Wagga I was (and still am) a proud Swans man, however, I was a Ruckman and in 1988, without doubt the best in the business was the great man who wore number 27. With all due respect to John Ironmonger at the Swannies, he was no Simon Madden!



Like most 10 year olds I dreamed, and realistically thought (as only kids can) that I could make the VFL. I wanted to be just like Simon. The way he timed his leap and held his opponents off with the right hand, while offering silver service to his midfield with his left, was a thing of beauty.



I was at ‘peak’ football ability at that age as it turns out. I did keep Cameron Mooney goalless in a match in that that 1988 season (our careers took different paths after this!). If anyone has a spare three hours I’ll be happy to arrive at your house with a 6 pack and talk you through my moment in the sun.



As I’m pondering whether to approach or not, I’m distracted by the events a few seats over. Some want-to-be cops (sorry, Metro Train undercover officers) are giving the third degree to a young student, who has made a mad dash to jump on the train before it departed, but had inadvertently forgotten to validate his ticket. It was like he had committed a homicide, given the grilling he was receiving. I thought about intervening and offering my legal services, and then figured scrapping through a few undergraduate units in commercial law, probably left me underqualified.



We pass Kensington Station. I get off at the next stop at North Melbourne. The moment has arrived. Bugger it, I’m going to have a crack.



What to say? I’m not asking for an autograph though, that’s for sure. The only adults that ask for autograph’s are the types that sit behind the goals, waving flags and banging Tamborines.



“Excuse me Simon”, I splutter out, with confidence akin to a pimply faced 16 year-old boy asking some young lass out for his first date.



Nothing! Simon doesn’t even look up from his phone.



I try again. “Excuse me Simon”, this time with a tad more volume and urgency.



Strike 2…Nothing! Simon is still engrossed in his phone. The train is stopping. My confidence is shot. Awkwardness is engulfing carriage 13.



Am I speaking even softer than I thought? Is Simon truly engrossed in his reading or perhaps is hard or hearing? Perhaps I am being brushed?



The young lady sitting next to Simon takes notice and looks at me inquisitively. Perhaps she would like to hear about how I used to worship the big number 27 from the Bombers?



I am nothing, if not determined, when I set my mind to something. I try one last time as the mindless numb of commuters jockey to depart for the platform.



“Excuse me Simon”. The great man peers up from his phone a little apprehensively. Who is this bloke shouting my name? Perhaps he thought I was about to flash a Metro Badge, pin him to the wall and question whether he had validated at Ascot Vale Station?



I can’t be sure of what I said exactly. I’d like to think it was along the lines of:

“This is a little embarrassing mate, but just wanted to say I grew up with number 27 on my back and you were my favourite player”.



The Great Man flashed a smile, thrust out a giant hand to shake and simply said “Good on you mate”.



The train door was shutting and I made a scramble to get out, much like the Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark temple escape.



I had my moment, with my childhood footy idol, and he did not let me down. This will go in the memory bank.



I wonder how often this happens to Simon these days? Does it happen daily, or perhaps has it been a while? Anyway, I hope I wasn’t intrusive, and perhaps he appreciated that he made an impact on a kid from Wagga Wagga back in the day.



As I catch my connecting train to Seddon, I’m on the phone with Mrs D, talking about retaining walls, re-heated pasta and school fees. I gush that I have just met my first footy hero. “That’s nice dear, now remember to pick Jack up from After School Care.”



For a few minutes it felt good to be that 10 year old again, nervously star-struck in front of the master of the ruck craft who wore number 27. I can now proudly say I met my hero and survived to tell the tale.



About craig dodson

Born in the sporting mecca that is Wagga Wagga and now reside in Melbourne with my lovelly wife Sophie and son's Jack and Harry. Passionate Swans supporter and formally played cricket at a decent level and Aussie Rules at a not so decent level! Spend my days now perfecting my slice on the golf course and the owner of the worlds worst second serve on the tennis course.


  1. Ian Hauser says

    Half your luck, Craig – the great Simon Madden, ruckman extraordinaire and genuine character! I, too, agonise over whether or not to ‘intrude’ in such situations, more often than not thinking ‘let them have their space’. All I ever really want to say is something like, ‘Thank you for the pleasure and enjoyment you gave to many people, including me.’ My observation over the decades is that most respond positively, especially if it’s left at just that rather than some long-winded carry-on. Now, if only I could run into Ian Redpath one day…

  2. Carole Fabian says

    Great piece, Craig. Simon obviously rides the Craigieburn line a fair bit. I was once standing next to him on the train (heading for Strathmore station in my case) and I kept looking (up) at the tall guy next to me. He looked SO familiar, but I couldn’t work out why. Finally, I asked where I knew him from. He went through a range of kids’ sporting activities that he thought we might have seen each other at. When none of the options worked, he suggested that maybe I was confusing him with his brother, who looked a bit similar. I HAD to ask who his brother was – when he said it was Justin (then a Victorian government minister), I turned a hideous shade of red. OMG, it was bloody SIMON MADDEN, and he wasn’t even owning up (not directly anyway). So embarassing!!! But what a modest man, eh?

  3. craig dodson says

    Ian, you summed up exactly what was going through my mind at the time. Good luck with the hunt for Redders.

    Great story Carole, not sure I could be that modest if I had his CV!

    Thanks for reading

  4. Peter Warrington says

    Stuey Clark at Circular Quay station
    Pigeon at the ice creamery in Newtown
    AB at the airport in Hobart
    Vossy and Lambo at Circular Quay
    Jim HIggs at a work do
    Goodesy in Town Hall arcade the other month
    Miles Murphy through work
    Shane Gould at Yamba in 73
    Boof Lehmann getting into a van the day he made 200+ against the Blues in Sydney
    Hirdy doing an interview on Brunswick St
    Sheeds in the corridors at Parliament House
    Pat Jarvis because he dated my sister

    None of them my hero but all of them heroes. It gives you a lift for weeks, those quick and cheerful soft-paparazziing.

  5. I’ve just come away from the Swans unveiling of the Bobby Skilton statue. Pic with Bobby and pic with another of my heroes, Johnny Heriot! Chatted to Stuart Magee, Peter Bedford and a few other legends of South. What a day! Nice article Craig!

  6. Craig- loved the wry self-deprecation in this and also your excitement at meeting the great man. I’m always a bit conflicted when in the company of the famous as part of me wants to rush up and say hello, but the stronger part silently says, “Don’t be a knob. Why would this person want you to inflict yourself upon them?” Having said that I was once at a function that AB was paid to be at, and really enjoyed the ten minutes I had with him. I’m sure he also thinks fondly of this conversation.

    Thanks for this.

  7. Enjoyed that story, Craig!

    Simon plays guitar in a band that play semi-regularly at the Ascot Vale hotel and other places around that locale called “Better Late Than Never”. The band arose, I believe, out of a thing called “Weekend Warriors”, and I met Simon through that after a gig a few years back. He’s just as enthusiastic about his music as he is about footy, and he was excellent company when having a beer after the gig a few years ago.

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