When a player is as prodigiously talented as Jy Simpkin, it can be easy to attribute his electric ability to pure talent, but what most people don’t see is the mountain of hard work done behind the scenes.
By winning his first Syd Barker Medal on Friday, the co-vice-captain has placed his name amongst some of the greats in North's illustrious history.
But at 23 years old and with the bulk of his career still ahead, Simpkin is keen to get even better.
“You get out what you put in. It’s pretty simple for me,” he said.
“I know if I train hard during the week and just do the consistent things I know I can do, the rewards will come.
“It’s my biggest thing. I know if I keep my training standards high, it’s going to allow me to play good football and get out on the park.”
Two men crucial in driving those training standards, senior coach David Noble and midfield coach Jordan Russell.
A quality midfielder in his own right, Russell played over 120 games across Carlton and Collingwood, and won two VFL premierships, while Noble’s work in rebuilding Adelaide and Brisbane in recent years is well documented.
“'Nobes' and 'Jordy' Russell can’t be underestimated with how they’ve pushed me to develop my game with a lot more outside football, and just evolve my game internally," Simpkin said.
“[Noble] really challenged me about my outside game … we had a few conversations about playing me on the wing, and I wasn’t really sure why … but it worked.
“He really pushed me and played me on the wing at stages this year to try and balance that out and get that outside run and really get damaging more in the forward half.
“'Jordy' … early days we butted heads a little bit … [but] we have a really strong relationship and bond, so I’m really excited to keep working with [him] going forward.
“We didn’t have as many wins as we would have liked, but I’m really bullish about our future and what we can do going forward.”
Taking his game to the elite level in 2021, it’s a fitting reward for a rising star of the competition.— North Melbourne (@NMFCOfficial) October 1, 2021
Congratulations to @JySimpkin, the winner of the 2021 #SydBarkerMedal! ?? pic.twitter.com/59EmCw6oHf
With veterans Ben Cunnington and Jack Ziebell finishing second and third respectively, Simpkin’s victory represents something of a changing of the guard in the North Melbourne ranks.
Fellow young guns Luke Davies-Uniacke, Ben McKay, Cam Zurhaar, Tarryn Thomas and Nick Larkey also registered top ten finishes, indicating a bright future for a young North list.
Simpkin says he’s excited to help kick-start North’s shift up the ladder, as soon as possible.
“As a young guy coming through to try and steer the ship steer North back to September footy … it’s massive for me,” he said.
“I look around the centre bounce and I’ve got Todd Goldstein, Ben Cunnington, Jed Anderson, 'LDU' (Davies-Uniacke) is coming through, Tarryn Thomas, these guys make my job easier.
“I don’t want to spend my career playing down the bottom of my ladder, so I’m going to do everything in my power to bring this team up and bring all the boys with me.”