Stephanie Simpson has been named captain of the Darebin VFLW team for Season 2022.
This will be Simpson’s third consecutive year at the helm and is a testament to her longevity both in the game and with this unique club, as well as the level of respect in which she is held by her teammates.
At 35 years of age, Simpson has been with Darebin since 2009 and is unwavering in her belief that her role is to take everything she’s learnt from the people and culture she’s been exposed to, and put it all into practice, leading by example, both on and off the field.
“I love the club and everything it stands for. I love being a leader of this club”, said Simpson.
“I definitely try to lead by example, especially at training. I’m always trying to show the younger ones, teach them the Darebin way.”
She speaks of the club, as many of those associated with Darebin do, with great respect and a level of conviction, more attributed to a belief system than a sports club.
“Everyone tries to instil confidence in you. It’s like a sacred space where you feel safe and welcome and able to be yourself, getting the best out of each other, and I want to keep that going.”
Simpson says that while people arrive at the Falcons aware of what kind of space they’re coming into, the key tenets definitely still need to be drilled home, reinforcing why they are at the club.
According to Simpson, those key elements can be framed as culture, mindset development and community as family – what she refers to as a feeling of ‘a home away from home’.
Despite having kicked the footy around with the boys at a junior level, her move into soccer as she got older is not an uncommon story.
But now heading into her 14th year at the footy club, she remembers the point at which she moved from the soccer pitch back to the footy field, and it will be no surprise to those devotees of women’s footy in Melbourne that the catalyst for that move was former Falcon and AFLW legend, Daisy Pearce.
“I met Daisy Pearce one day at a charity footy game and she invited me to come to training,” Simpson said, “and I pretty much quit soccer that week.”
To survive for this long at this level has required consistency of both mind and body according to Simpson, who fully admits to struggling with injury at times but that it’s all about coming to understand what does and doesn’t work best for you as an athlete.
2022 is looking good for Simpson, ironically in part due to COVID, which has been a major factor in her being able to stay on the training track and on the field.
With the limited 2021 playing season, she hasn’t had to push herself through weekly match commitments which has allowed her to regain a good level of fitness consistency.
With the squad having hit a lean patch in recent times, off the back of many successful years at the top of women’s footy in Melbourne, the upcoming season is looming as somewhat of a litmus test for Darebin with a new coach and what will hopefully be a full competition fixture being allowed to play out, after two years of disruption.
Simpson has a good feeling about the season for Darebin but is under no illusion that the key initial objective is development of the group.
“Our gameplan is looking quite strong at the moment. I don’t really have expectations beyond that,” Simpson said.
“It’s really just all about developing the group and creating a good team, as a foundation for a ‘next era’ of Falcons.”
However the season unfolds for the Falcons, Steph Simpson is determined that her role and legacy is to lead this team, both on and off the field, in the spirit of the club she loves.
“I just want to help as much as I can and instil some of the Darebin culture that I was exposed to when I first joined.”