SIMON Buckley has been the best player in the GVL in the past few years, one of the rare players to claim back-to-back Morrison medals. For all his individual brilliance, team success has eluded him throughout his stellar career. But maybe now is his best chance. ANDREW JOHNSTON caught up with Simon recently to discuss his career and the future of Echuca FNC.
An interesting start to the season for you personally and the club?
It’s been a pretty good start for the club. We went three and zero in the opening three games which we haven’t been in more than a decade. So that was a really positive start, we’ve since played a few games against some high quality outfits which has shown us a lot about where we are in terms of where we are at in relation to the best sides in the competition.
You’ve missed a game, and came off really early in another due to injury. Having not had many injuries during your career, it must be frustrating losing time due to being hurt?
I absolutely hate it. I played round one, then missed round two to be best man in a wedding. I strained my hammy in the first five minutes in round three so missed most of the game and then the next week against Ky. I got back in round five, but I’d basically not played footy in four weeks. It’s really frustrating. I can’t stand being on the sidelines. But I’ve been pretty lucky throughout my career that I’ve never really been hurt. But now that I’m getting a bit older I probably need to change how I’m training and preparing to look after my body. I’m ready to go now, hopefully I play the remainder of the year.
You ended up with 47 touches in your first game, four goals in your second and in the bests again against Benalla. It must be nice to know you can play whatever role they want from you?
Yeah it’s really good. At the start of every season I start to ask myself about my skills — is this the year I start to drop off. So It’s nice to get back out there and know I can still make an impact on the game. It’s also nice to be able to play multiple roles. We are seeing in the higher levels and now in all levels this pattern of bigger body midfielders being able to go forward and kick a few goals. It adds value, so being able to do that is great for me and also an advantage to the club. Mind you, when I kicked four, I didn’t have many more kicks!
Very few players have won back-to-back Morrison’s. Do you feel like you are still able to produce at that level every week?
Absolutely. Once I’m out there and stringing a few games together I have no doubt I will be at that form. That said, I’m 31, I’m well aware it’s inevitable that I will slow down and drop off eventually. But with the way I’ve been training and preparing, I feel like I’ve got a few years left in me before that happens. The plan is to produce and play my role for as long as I can.
We’ve discussed previously how badly you want to play in a flag. In the past you’ve played in some not too crash-hot sides here. Does it feel like this is the group who could get there?
You know the most frustrating part of this year so far is that we can’t all get on the park due to injury. We have a really good list, when you write down your best 22 from our list, I think that side can match anyone. We’ve had a few lean years, and if I’m honest I wouldn’t be hanging around if I didn’t think we are on the right track. I believe we have the quality to go all the way. I’m not saying this year or next, it will take time for us to gel as a group. But what Walks and Simon are doing, it has us in a great position and I love where we are going.
What is the biggest lesson that playing footy for as long as you have has taught you?
I feel like footy is something where you reap the benefits of hard work. I feel individually and as a club if you work as hard as you can, it will pay results. It takes a few successful years to realise that, so hopefully we can get that so these boys can see how big an impact it will have on them.