Simpson comes of age with Lions leadership TIME: Carrington’s Brendon Simpson celebrates with South Newcastle fans after last season’s grand final win at McDonald Jones Stadium. The 25-year-old prop is now co-captain of the Lions. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

TweetFacebook Brendon SimpsonPictures from Newcastle Herald archivesGrand final. Premiership. Celebrations.

It’s seems like a blur for Brendon Simpson andalmost 10months on the South Newcastle prop finds himself in a much different space.

Nowadays at Townson Oval, despite being just 25 years of age,he is one of the elder statesman along with fellow Lions co-captain Luke Higgins.

A major shift from having the likes of 2016 playmaker Willie Heta and former captain-coach Todd Hurrell steering the ship.

“It’s been a big difference,” Simpson said.

“I’ve gonefrom being one of the younger players last year, to all of a sudden me and Higgo being more seniorplayers.It’s taken a bit of adjusting, but I’ve loved it.”

Like the mine mechanic’swork on the field it has been challenge accepted.

The no-nonsense front-rower and hooker Higgins were named skippers this season by new coach Ben Cross, who could see their “leadership qualities”.

But for Simpson, calling the shots and running the boys out each weekend hasbeena new experience.

“It wasmassive,” he said.

“I’dnevercaptained a first grade team, but I thinkthis was thefirst team Higgo hadn’tcaptained. He’s been aleader his whole life.

“I’ve loved Souths since I’ve been there, so to be given that ‘C’was a big deal for me.”

Simpson was born and bred in Mudgee, moving to Newcastle eight years ago for the Knights under 20s.

The Rebels representative then joined Macquarie for three seasons before starting with Souths in 2015.

September’s decider and drought-breaking title was the pinnacle of his time in the Newcastle Rugby League first grade competition.

“Southshadn’t won one in 27 years, which is longer than I’ve been alive,” he said.

“It was definitely the highlight of my football career and it will be prettyhard to top. Idon’t think anything can really beat that.”

Souths tacklegrand final opponentsMacquarie at Peacock Field on Sunday. It will be the first time they have met since. The clubsfollow it up with a second encounter the following weekend at Merewether.

“We have Macquarietwo weeks in a row and it isa grand final replay, but I don’t think we’ll treat it that way,” Simpson said.

“They are pretty high up and I see them as a benchmark. It’s not so much about last year, it’s about how they’re going this year.”

Souths, sitting fifth with two games in hand, and Macquarie, now outright second, will field less than half of last year’s grand final squads.

The Lions welcome back centre Lewis Schneider from an elbow injury. Ben Roose and Tim Christie are still in the process of returning.

Macquarie coach Adam Bettridge said Randall Briggs will play in the halves.