Senior player: 1987, 1989–94
Guernsey number: 23
Senior games: 127 Footscray (41 Fitzroy)
Goals: 76 Footscray (13 Fitzroy)
Most consistent player award: 1991
Finals: 5 (1992 and 1994)
State games: 4 (for Tasmania, 1989, 1990, 1991, 1993)
Night games: 9
Night goals: 3
Recruited from: Wynyard, Tasmania
Simon Atkins and his twin brother, Paul, came to the Footscray Football Club in 1987 from Wynyard in Tasmania.
Simon had been a State representative for Tasmania when he was sixteen years old, and his senior coach at Wynyard had been former Footscray player David Thorpe.
Simon recalls that the level of fitness required to play VFL was a huge shock and that life as a recruit was tough once training started – long hot training sessions, early morning weights and running sessions and, of course, working eight hours a day at his apprenticeship as a boilermaker and welder at Skilled Engineering.
Simon made his debut for the Bulldogs in Round 2, 1987, a loss in Sydney against the Swans [Sydney 27-25 (187) defeated Footscray 11-13 (79)] – but Simon kicked goals with his first two kicks.
Despite playing only two more senior games in that first year, against Carlton and St Kilda, Simon went on to play a total of 127 games for Footscray, mostly in the centre, and kicked 76 goals – finishing third in the best and fairest twice, fourth in that award twice, and winning the most consistent player award in 1991.
Simon played in two winning grand finals for Footscray reserves, in 1988 and 1994, and was acting-captain in the Footscray seniors’ semi-final loss to Melbourne in 1994 [Melbourne 21-18 (144) defeated Footscray 9-11 (65)].
Unexpectedly, that was his last game for the Bulldogs and he was hugely disappointed to be delisted by coach Alan Joyce at the end of 1994. But he was picked up by Fitzroy and played two seasons with them in 1995 and 1996, for 41 games and 13 goals. Simon will go down in history as the player who kicked the last goal scored by Fitzroy, at the end of 1996, in their last game, before the club affiliated with Brisbane and ceased to exist in its own right.
Expressions of interest and offers for Simon to continue his playing career came from two AFL clubs early in 1997 – but, by then, his football career was headed down a different path. Simon was only 27 years old so decided to play on at Werribee (1997–2000) before, at thirty years of age, finally deciding he had played enough football.
He then became the matchday runner for Terry Wallace at the Bulldogs in 2001 and also did the running for Peter Rohde in 2003. This involvement stimulated Simon’s interest in coaching.
Simon was reserves coach and senior assistant coach to fellow Tasmanian Chris Bond at Werribee for seasons 2001 and 2002. In 2004, he was reserves coach and assistant coach to Paul Spargo at Coburg and was then appointed to the senior coaching position at Werribee Football Club in 2005. Werribee finished runner-up in Simon’s first year and made finals in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 but, unfortunately, in 2010 (his last year), did not make the finals.
In 2009, Simon was awarded Life Membership of the Werribee Football Club and received a personal letter of congratulations from Julia Gillard, the future prime minister, a local resident and keen Werribee supporter. In 2010, he was also awarded Life Membership of the VFL.
Away from football, Simon is employed as the Manager of McKay United, trading as Williamstown Cranes. In this role, he looks after contracts, liaises with clients and oversees jobs. Williamstown Cranes’ work ranges from maintenance and wharf and rail work, to work on movies and big concerts at Etihad Stadium.
Simon loves golf and enjoys entertaining clients on the golf course. He also enjoys cooking and is always trying to cook something different.
He is looking forward to convincing his daughter Marlo to follow the Dogs (and not the Pies like her Mum, Lisa) and, hopefully, to watching his son Flynn play for the Western Bulldogs one day!
Similar stories of past Footscray/Western Bulldogs players appear in The Bulldog Heritage and The Bulldog Heritage: Volume 2 (published by the Western Bulldogs Forever Foundation) both available from the Bulldogs Shop at Whitten Oval for $69.95.