JONATHAN Simpkin reckons he’s the “luckiest man going around” after claiming two premiership medals in two weeks.
The first one came in the VFL eight days ago as Box Hill upstaged Geelong at Docklands, a match in which the Colac export played a starring role.
The second, and undoubtedly more cherished, arrived after Hawthorn ground its way to victory against Fremantle in the AFL decider at the MCG on Saturday.
“I think Steven King did it at Geelong in 2007 but I’m not sure of any other time it’s happened,” Simpkin said post-match.
Simpkin, 25, was the feel-good story of the grand final.
The nuggety onballer is at his third AFL club, eight years after emerging from TAC Cup club Geelong Falcons at the end of 2005.
Yet he has played just 18 matches in that time, and none before 2012.
The journey started when Sydney rookie-listed him ahead of the 2006 season, but he failed to play a match in two seasons in the Harbour City.
He returned and earned a spot on the supplementary list at VFL club Geelong, but spent most of 2008 and 2009 running around with home club Colac.
By that stage, he had made countless trips up the Princes Highway for little reward and was considering throwing away his AFL dreams.
But, encouraged by then-Colac coach Tyson Hay, Simpkin persisted.
His second crack at the AFL arrived 12 months later, when Geelong selected him in the 2011 rookie draft.
He finally made his debut in 2012, against the Western Bulldogs, and won the VFL Cats’ best and fairest awards in 2011 and 2012.
Still, that wasn’t enough. Geelong delisted Simpkin at the end of 2012 and his career hit yet another hurdle.
But Hawthorn offered another lifeline, picking him up as a delisted free agent, and he has since thrived at Waverley.
The rest of the story is already well-documented — the footballer rejected by two AFL clubs earns a late call-up to play in a grand final and becomes a premiership player.
Fate works in mysterious ways.
“It’s been a long journey, a hard one. But it (winning a premiership) makes it all worthwhile now,” Simpkin said.
“Tyson Hay told me to have another crack at Geelong and that’s the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Simpkin, who was the substitute and replaced ruckman Max Bailey at three-quarter-time, said he was “hoping to come on and contribute”.
He finished with six disposals and was prominent as the Hawks iced the clock late in the final quarter.
“Obviously being the sub throughout the year I was able to do that OK. That worked in my favour as well,” he said.
Simpkin said he saw the logic in the AFL introducing the substitute system at the start of the 2011 season.
He hoped to avoid being typecast as the sub, although did not care if it gave him a chance to play in the AFL.
“No one really likes being the sub. Obviously you want to play four quarters,” he said.
“But I’m happy to be the sub if you win a premiership. I’d put my hand up to play AFL footy and be the sub if that’s the case.”