His is a name synonymous with the Port Kembla footy club, and John Simon's on a mission to see the Blacks return as a senior force as he takes the reins of the club's return to under 18s next season.
One of the game's most historically decorated clubs, with 22 first grade premierships on its honour roll, the Blacks have perennially struggled to field senior sides since returning to the Illawarra following the end of its "on-loan" stint with Group Seven in 2017.
The Blacks reached the First Division grand final in 2019, losing to Collegians, but recent attempts to field a side in the third grade Shield competition have fallen short.
With the Blacks' junior club numbers on a steady rise, the club has shifted its focus to fielding an under 18s side with a long-term view of retaining players into the senior ranks.
A veteran of 230 NRL games - 120 for the Steelers - Simon said the opportunity to help restore his junior club's senior fortunes was an exciting opportunity.
"I was actually visiting my daughter overseas and saw [the open call] on Facebook and it interested me," Simon said.
"Obviously my family's had a long connection with Port Kembla, it was my junior club, my brothers played first grade there and my dad's a legend of the club and played there for many years.
"That was part of [the desire], but just speaking with Richard (president Richard Velthius) and the other people involved as well, they're really passionate about trying to get Port back in there with a senior side so there's that incentive to contribute in that way.
"I'd like to see the club doing well and getting a club like Port back on the map is certainly a big incentive. The 18s is a stepping stone, particularly for Port Kembla which doesn't have any senior sides at the moment.
"I know Richard and club have done a lot of consultation of the with the junior club. They've obviously got some numbers with the juniors coming through, they just need that pathway."
Once the easiest grade to fill, fielding under 18s sides has been challenging across the game in recent years, with just five sides contesting this year's premiership.
Simon's expecting the face the same challenges, but said the club isn't chasing a quick sugar-hit.
"I'm not under any pretence that it's not going to be hard," Simon said.
"The first step's getting those under 16s to come back. I know there's some Port Kembla juniors at other clubs we'll trying to get back, and if you don't have a side you don't have anywhere for them to go.
"We're not naive enough to sit there and just say we're 'going to win the comp', but it's about getting the ball rolling and the 18s is that first step."
On the lookout for what will be a pivotal role in the club's push to have a presence at senior level, Velthius said the process of finding a coach was a brief one once Simon expressed interest.
"He asked us 'when does the application process close' and I said 'you can close it with one word'," Velthius said.
"We've got a really good relationship with the junior club and there's good juniors coming through, but we lose those kids. Even at 16s they're thinking 'well I have to go next year, I might as well go now'.
"At least we can give those kids a pathway and they can know they don't have to go anywhere. We've got some that have left the club because they didn't have a pathway. Now they might decide to come back.
"We haven't entirely ruled out having a third grade side next year either but [the 18s] are one hundred per cent our focus. We feel we can really build a culture through that group with John there."
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