A Player's Perspective: Eddie Simpson

Thursday, May 21, 2020 - 7:37 PM

Not too many players cut a more imposing physical presence in the WAFL than East Perth’s Eddie Simpson.

At 199cm and 105 kilos, Simpson is still relatively new to the club having arrived via Claremont midway through last season.

Under Jeremy Barnard, he made his Royals league debut in Round 11, playing nine games.

It was interesting coming midway through the year,” Simpson said.

“The players had done a massive pre-season and things had changed a lot, with a new coach in Jeremy Barnard coming in.

“There was a lot of learning and education and game plan stuff that I sort of missed out on (from earlier in the year) compared to the other boys.

“That first month, I was getting used to the game plan and then getting to know everyone – which was easier than I expected.

“We’ve got so many great personalities at the Royals.” 

Simpson’s arrival added some extra fire power to East Perth’s forward line, a role he is hoping to build on in 2020.

“Last season, it was a slow start for me and also a bit frustrating on game day, but the coaches were always keeping me in a positive mind frame,” he said.

“I ended up playing some better footy (as the season went on) and I think it’s given me a good baseline to launch into 2020 hopefully.”

Simpson said his connection with Royals midfield coach (and former Claremont assistant) Chris Bolton and some advice from WAFL great Percy Johnson helped guide his decision to head to East Perth.

“Percy is a great man in WAFL footy, he’s been around for a long time and he spoke very highly of the Royals’ culture and history.

“I spoke with Barney (Jeremy Barnard) before moving, we talked about what it would mean to move over and it was about focusing on making yourself better as a player and therefore that's going to help the team. It really appealed to me.”

While much of Simpson’s junior career was spent in the ruck, with Ajang Ajang holding down the fort for the majority of 2019 and with the return of Scott Jones after two seasons with Fremantle, Simpson said he was relishing the challenge up forward.

"They're two phenomenal athletes and they know how to play that ruck position really well," he said.

“I feel like I’m more useful down forward and I feel like it’s better for the team when I’m down there playing that role.

“I think that my strength is in contested marking, being able to make a contest and bring the ball to ground for our smaller forwards like Shayne Hille, Mitch Dobson, Shaq McKenzie, Jayden Magro and Benny McGuire.

“Those players thrive when the ball comes to ground, or if I mark it, they can keep heading towards the goal square and get on the end of one over the back.”

Earning the nickname ‘Shred’, Simpson is not out of place in East Perth’s weights room. He said plenty of sleep, good nutrition and a combination of strength and conditioning work helps contribute to his game on the field.

When talking figures – he can bench press an impressive 127.5 kilos, deadlift 215 kilos, back squat (below parallel) 175 kilos and pin squat 290 kilos (three repetitions).

“It’s interesting with the strength stuff, I think a lot of young players get into (that mindset about) getting as strong as possible,” he said.

“It’s important to increase it to a certain extent, but if it’s your only focus, I think it sometimes hurts your footy if you’re only focusing on strength.

“It’s a two and a half, three hour game, you need to have the endurance to go along with it.

Balancing a Masters degree and a part time job, Simpson said a return to training in bigger groups at Leederville Oval this week had improved the morale of the players.

We’re used to training with a squad of 60 almost and then it sort of gets taken away from you and you realise how much you miss everyone.

“We’ve got such a high quality group of men. It’s always enjoyable being around them and you also get more out of training just because it’s more fun seeing everyone, talking to everyone, catching up.

“It was hard to maintain that social aspect when we were all in isolation.”

A decision is yet to be made on the future of this year’s WAFL season, however, a shortened format, plus finals is likely. After winning five games in 2019, following the end of the alignment with the West Coast Eagles, Simpson said it presented a great opportunity for the Royals to make an impact.

“It’s going to be really special whoever wins the premiership this year,” he said.

“It’s going to be a testament to the players and all the discipline they’ve put in during the isolation period, when some people might have been able to take some shortcuts.

“I think we’ve put ourselves in good stead that we can make an impact.

“Instead of each game being worth four points, it almost feels like double that with the shorter season. Wins are going to be crucial and we’re going to need to get off to a good start.

“There’s every chance that anyone could be in the grand final this year, the WAFL is such a tight competition.”

With a raft of strong off-season signings, Simpson, a three-time Claremont premiership player (twice at Colts and once at Reserves level), is confident that the tide could turn quickly for East Perth.

“It’s really just a culmination of all the hard work and it’s so rewarding after.

“I can only imagine that (winning a premiership with East Perth) would be one of the best days of my life.

“I’m going to keep working as hard as I can and keep driving the group as much as I can to achieve that success.”