Simon Black has called time on his illustrious 16-year playing career with the Brisbane Lions.
Black advised the Club late yesterday of his intention to retire after originally delaying his decision on his future following post-season surgery on his groins and knees.
“I still absolutely love the game and have the passion to compete, but I just wasn’t 100percent certain that my body could withstand the demands of another AFL season,” Black said.
“My head and my heart were dragging me in two different directions, and I guess in the end the head prevailed.
“It was an incredibly tough decision, particularly as I’ve spent almost half my life playing AFL with the Brisbane Lions.
“Retiring is an inevitable part of every football career, and I feel incredibly fortunate to have been able to spend mine at such a proud and successful Club like the Lions.
“I can’t thank the Club enough for giving me the opportunity and the members and fans for their continued support.”
Although Black’s playing days have come to an end, the Club hopes to maintain the veteran’s valuable services next season and have offered him an Assistant Coaching role from next season.
Lions Senior Coach Justin Leppitsch had nothing but praise for his former premiership teammate.
“It is a sad time for the football club to be farewelling one of our greats,” Leppitsch said.
“Simon showed amazing dedication and loyalty to the Brisbane Lions for 16 seasons and is an inspiration for our younger players.
“We hope that Simon will stay on in a coaching capacity as his personal qualities and drive are envied by all at the Club.
“The Club would also like to acknowledge the sacrifices made by his wife Catherine, and parents Ray and Fran Black in supporting Simon in his career path over the other side of the country.
“Simon’s list of achievements and contribution to the game will undoubtedly make him not just a future Hall of Fame member of the Lions, but also the AFL.”
Lions General Manager – Football Operations, Dean Waren, said Black leaves an incredible legacy at the Lions, which will live on throughout future generations.
“This Club has produced some wonderful players throughout its merged history, but Simon Black will rightly assume a position among the absolute elite – alongside the likes of Kevin Murray and Michael Voss,” Warren said.
“He is one of the most respected players in the game and has played a considerable part in the growth and development of the game here in Queensland.
“Simon is a champion on and off the field and we hope he continues to call the Lions’ ‘home.’”
Black leaves the game as the most decorated player in the combined history of the Brisbane Lions, having played a record 322 games, kicked 171 goals, and achieved almost every honour available in the AFL.
In fact, he stands alone as the only player in VFL/AFL history to have reached 300 AFL games, won a Brownlow Medal, played in a premiership (he played in three), and received the Norm Smith Medal – widely considered the four absolute pinnacles of the game.
That’s not to mention the three Club Champion trophies, three All Australian selections, and countless other individual awards that he’s picked up along the way.
Black has not only been a class act on the field, but a wonderful ambassador for the Club off it. He constantly inspires his teammates, is widely respected by opponents, and is simply adored by fans.
His AFL journey began at the end of 1997, when he was snapped up with the Lions with Pick No.31 at the 1997 AFL National Draft.
Then a skinny teenager from East Fremantle, Black moved across the other side of the country to embark on an AFL career in Brisbane.
The Lions had high hopes that Black could one day develop into a quality midfielder, but the Club could never have predicted that the Bullcreek Leeming junior would go onto become one of the best players our game has ever seen.
Black made an immediate impact upon arriving at the Lions, and was selected to make his senior debut in Round 1 of the 1998 season against the Western Bulldogs.
He went on to play ninematches in his debut season, and did enough to win the Club’s Best First Year Player award in a year which saw the Lions collect their first, and only, wooden spoon as a merged entity.
Under the tutelage of Senior Coach Leigh Matthews in 1999, Black quickly established himself as a ball-winning midfielder with quick hands and silky foot skills, and featured in 22 of the team’s 25 senior matches during his second season – including three Finals.
By 2001, he was widely considered one of the competition’s elite players, following a stellar season which saw him share his first of three Merrett-Murray Medals with Captain Michael Voss as joint Club Champion in the same year as the Lions’ first premiership triumph.
An unprecedented period of both individual and team success would soon follow, with Black forming part of the famed ‘fab four’ midfield alongside Voss, Nigel Lappin and Jason Akermanis, and helping the Club achieve an historic hat-trick of premierships from 2001-2003.
He won the AFL’s highest individual honour – the Brownlow Medal – in 2002, and has twice finished Runner-Up (in 2007 and 2008). Such has been his prominence on Brownlow night, that he overtook Kevin Murray last year as the Club’s all-time leading vote-getter.
Black saved arguably the finest individual performances of his career for Collingwood in the 2003 Grand Final, which helped help steer the Lions to a third consecutive flag.
With a number of his teammates under an injury cloud, Black stood tall with a career-best 39 possessions (25 contested), nine tackles, nine clearances, seven inside 50s and a goal to earn him the Norm Smith Medal as best afield.
Although Black’s last nine seasons have only produced a total of two AFL Finals, he has maintained an elite level of consistency that has kept him widely regarded as one of the game’s best players.
His supreme durability also enabled him to become just the fourth player in the Club’s combined history to reach the 300-game milestone.
In Round 12 this year, Black surpassed Marcus Ashcroft’s previous record of most games by a Brisbane player when he lined up for his 319th senior AFL match against Fremantle in his former home state of Western Australia.
Unfortunately Black would only play a further three matches for the Club, with a persistent groin injury keeping the midfield star sidelined for eight of the Club’s final nine matches of the season.
Black was among the Lions’ best players in what turned out to be his 322nd, and final, AFL match against Greater Western Sydney last Saturday night at the Gabba, with a team-high 28 disposals, five clearances and three goal assists.
Fittingly, he received two Brownlow Medal votes for his swansong performance, taking his career tally to 184 – a combined Club record and the sixth most of any player throughout VFL/AFL history.
SIMON BLACK – AT A GLANCE DOB: 3 April 1979
AFL Games: 322 AFL Goals: 171
AFL Awards: AFL Rising Star Nomination 1999 3rd AFL Rising Star Award 1999 All-Australian 2001, 2002, 2004 Brownlow Medal 2002 Norm Smith Medal 2003 Brownlow Medal Runner-Up 2007, 2008 All Australian Preliminary Squad 2008 AFL Life Member 2011 Club Awards Lions Best First Year Player 1998 Lions Rookie of the Year 1999 Lions Attitude Barometer Award 1999, 2002, 2003 Lions Premiership Player 2001, 2002, 2003 Lions Club Champion 2001, 2002, 2006 Lions Club Champion Runner-Up 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 3rd Lions Club Champion 2004 Lions Best Midfielder 2006, 2007, 2008 Lions Team of the Decade Member 2006 Lions Co-Captain 2007-2008 Lions Members Player of the Year 2007, 2011 Lions Life Member 2007 Lions Vice-Captain 2009, 2010 Lions Players’ Player of the Year 2009, 2010, 2011 Other Awards The Courier Mail Player of the Year 2001, 2002, 2008, 2009 International Rules Series 2001 Sands of Gallipoli Medal 2008, 2009, 2010 Marcus Ashcroft Medal 2011