SAM Simpson was literally the last player picked for Geelong’s AFL finals campaign.
In Saturday’s grand final, unless the Cats or Richmond spring a selection shock, the 14-game midfielder will be the least experienced player on the ground.
“It’s still settling in a bit,” Simpson told AAP.
“Late in the week it will hit me a bit more.”
Simpson’s tale has been one of persistence since he was taken with pick 53 in the 2016 rookie draft.
The 22-year-old has had to fight to be considered for a role in the star-studded Geelong side and didn’t manage a single senior game last year despite performing well enough to win the reserves’ best-and-fairest award.
“There were definitely frustrations, not that they last too long, but you’re always striving to get into the (AFL) team and then play well,” Simpson said.
“So there’s always those little moments, but you never let that hinder your performance.
“You get back very quickly to doing what the team needs.”
When Simpson finally got what looked like his big break this year, playing six matches through July and August, a serious hamstring injury put his finals dreams in doubt.
The other spanner in the works was a lack of an organised competition like the VFL – which was scrapped this year because of the coronavirus – in which to press his case for a recall once he was fit again.
But Simpson’s versatility and growing stature at the Cats were recognised when he was picked for the semi-final against Collingwood ahead of hard nut Tom Atkins.
“Playing in big games, you’ve got to learn quickly, and these last two finals have been the two biggest games I’ve ever played,” Simpson said.
“It’s been good to get that experience at that level.”
Simpson’s father, Sean, played 121 AFL-VFL games with St Kilda and Geelong, and featured in the Cats’ grand final loss to West Coast in 1992.
The pair spoke soon after the son’s important contribution – 14 disposals and five clearances – in last week’s preliminary final win over Brisbane helped seal the Cats’ progression to their first season decider in nine years.
“He was super stoked and he was probably getting a bit nervous as well because he knows how the week goes,” Simpson said.
“There are a lot of people reaching out and a lot of things happening, but he just said to really embrace it because it can be one of the best weeks of your life.”