By Beth Newman
Paul Simpson used to be the kind of football dad who watched from the bonnet of his car.
Then one day, he became the kind of football dad who rolled up his sleeves and tried to improve the footy club. And he’s never looked back.
“I used to be one of those dads who was like “Why don’t they do this..?”,” he says.
“Then I realised they were getting little help and so I thought I’d get off the bonnet of the car and start helping.”
Simpson, named the AFL Queensland Auskick volunteer of the year in 2013 and self-proclaimed “worst U-13 back pocket ever”, has helped his local club, Springwood, triple its junior numbers in recent years.
A DJ by trade, Simpson has an infectious energy and enthusiasm, which has clearly helped to recruit Puma juniors and encourage Auskickers to transition into junior club footy.
“I got out there and rang every kid who played Auskick in our zone and invited them down to the club,” he said.
“That’s the first step – to get them down there, shake their hands and then once they trained, they were hooked.
“That was four years ago now.”
Simpson says his regular job, which involves cameos at many a blue light disco, makes motivating kids into footy seem like relative child’s play.
“As a DJ, I can make you throw your arms and bang your head,” he said.
“If you can make them do that you can make them do anything.”
Simpson is quick to dish praise on to the other volunteers at the Pumas throughout the conversation, emphasising the team effort involved in everything the club does, particularly Springwood’s committee for its holistic approach to the club, which has seen ties between the seniors and juniors strengthen further.
“We’ve got a terrific committee that work in together that see the joint as one club, seniors and juniors together,” he said.
“It’s a real community club and there’s a complete different feel (these days).
“We’ve got seniors coming down and helping coach the juniors and we’re inundated with people wanting to help.
“We used to see bugger all and it’s at the stage where we’re bursting at the seams, with a couple of hundred kids on the oval.”
Simpson has also been a driving force behind the club’s partnership with local school St Paul’s, setting up the St Paul’s Pumas, mainly made up of children with indigenous an multicultural backgrounds.
Due to the growth in the junior numbers, St Paul’s trains at school, with coach and teacher, Jon Sorohan and Simpson said it was great to give these kids an opportunity to play footy.
“They’ve got access to the game that they might not otherwise have had,” he says.
“It absolutely blows my mind.”
It’s the enjoyment of the game that keeps Simpson so involved, not his own but that of the hundreds of junior footballers who are kicking off their Aussie Rules journey at Springwood.
“The other day I just sat back and I’ve seen all these kids running around and thought ‘we’ve done a good job at this club’.”
“Seeing so many kids playing a sport is great, but it’s more about them meeting mates and a lot of those mates will be friends for life, including the parents.
“It’s just great to see a smile on their dials.”