Tom Simmons, whose football prowess at Princes Park in the post-World War II years of Henfry and Deacon was more than matched by his prodigious talents as a professional athlete, has died at the age of 84.
By the time he was recruited to Carlton from Northcote District juniors in Melbourne’s inner-city north, Thomas Edwin Francis Simmons’ reputation on the track preceded him. Standing six foot in the old measurement, he had taken the 100 and 200-yard championships of Melbourne Technical Schools, together with the high and long-jump titles, and had also triumphed in the 220-yard dash at the Inter-Technical schools championship at Olympic Park.

At Carlton, he would later combine football with cricket commitments, as would “Mick” Price and Jim Baird, his club contemporaries.

Simmons earned Carlton’s Best First Year Player award in 1948 – the first of just two seasons at senior League level - during which time he alternated between half-back and half-forward.

Wearing the famous No.2 of John Nicholls, Greg Williams and (now) Troy Menzel, Simmons completed his senior debut barely a month after his 19th birthday. He would string together 27 senior appearances for the Blues through 1948 and ’49, having been adjudged their best first-year player.

Simmons’ rare litheness was on show in what was an all-too-brief League football foray. His impressive speed, long-kicking and high-marking, together with his insatiable appetite for the contest, made him a formidable foe. An old teammate, the late Laurie Kerr, said of Simmons: “He looked and performed like Mighty Mouse on the field”, and the noted field umpire Harry Beitzel rated the player a champion in the making.

Allan Greenshields, the 16-game Carlton Premiership player of 1947 who later pursued his career with St Kilda, is one of Simmons’ few surviving contemporaries.

“Tom was a good athlete. He had a very good body and a good pair of legs,” Greenshields, now 87, said.

“I went to St Kilda in mid-’49 and I reckon he was still there then. I remember him as a half-back flanker who got a few games and went well, although he got injured and couldn’t play anymore.

“But he was another player up against me, which is why I thought ‘I’d better get out here’. There were just too many blokes in for my position.”

Tragically, Simmons’ football career ended before it had effectively begun. In a pre-season practice match in 1950, he buckled with serious knee damage which later warranted two separate surgical procedures.

Simmons took on professional foot running as he completed a remarkable recovery, taking out the Terang, Ararat, Maryborough and Port Fairy Gifts as backmarker through the summers of 1950 and ’51. Clearly he could still run the straight lines.

But while he again committed to Carlton to help fill the void left by the recently-retired full-forward Ken Baxter, he was never able to emulate his footballing feats, although he did follow up as a field umpire in the sticks.

Simmons married his sweetheart Lorraine the following year, and later forged a successful career as an industrial chemist for companies such as Revlon and Estee Lauder. He and his wife raised a family of seven children, and he was a regular at Carlton games for many years long after his on-field career had ended.

A funeral mass for Tom Simmons is to be held just down the road from the old Carlton ground, at St. Carthage's Church, Royal Parade, Parkville, this Friday (October 11) from 11am.

A private burial is to follow.

Blueseum: Simmons' Biography