Dear Parents and Friends of St Bernard’s,
St Bernard’s 60th anniversary ambassador Simon Madden needs little introduction.Simon completed HSC at St Bernard’s in 1975, reached the heights of the VFL/AFL, worked as a teacher, was an Essendon Football Club board member, runs a consulting firm, is an accomplished MC, a past Bernard’s parent and lives locally.He is the perfect choice as SBC celebrates and gives thanks for the life of the school and looks forward to an even more promising future with the Year 9 campus, Resurrection House, and new senior campus. Simon grew up in Airport West, the second of three boys.
He attended St Christopher’s Primary School before spending a year at St Monica’s, in Moonee Ponds, then a main feeder school for St Bernard’s.
It was a big commitment for the self-described working-class family. At times his father worked two jobs and his mother worked part time as a doctor’s receptionist and occasionally worked Saturdays at the “Tot” (now the TAB).
Ex-serviceman father Bill died at 56 while mowing the lawn, leaving wife Thelma with three boys - Paul, 14, Simon, 13 and Justin, 10.
“School had its ups and downs but it was important in giving me some direction,” he said.
Although Simon went on to be one of St Bernard’s most outstanding football products, he wasn’t a gifted footballer as a young boy.
“In Grade 4, I couldn’t catch a ball or kick a ball. All my friends played so I joined in,” he recalled.
“By the Under 11s I was starting to get the hang of it.”
By the under 15s he was hitting his straps as a footballer.
“I rarely trained but my under 15 coach said: “I reckon you could make it. You could be a serious footballer”.”
Older brother, Paul, played under 19s and seconds for Essendon and Simon said he was a good player but was more interested in his rock and roll band.
By Year 11, Simon was lining up for the Essendon seconds.He finished the season playing 16 games in the seconds and 6 games in the firsts.It was a busy week, playing school football on Wednesdays and for the Bombers on Saturday. Though young he was well prepared. Some weeks during the previous year he had played three games of football.
In the early years, football was very much part-time and he and his teammates trained after working hours Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. He finished his career at Essendon in 1992 with 378 games, putting him in the history books. He is a premiership player, Norm Smith Medallist, captain and All Australian player. He is a Life member of Essendon, the AFL and the AFL Players Association, a member of the Essendon Hall of Fame and the AFL Hall of fame.Justin, also a SBC student, played 332 games, is a dual premiership player and best and fairest winner. They are the only brothers to play over 300 games.
While footy was his passion, Simon’s HSC year loved to play soccer at any opportunity with a game played most lunchtimes.
“We’d turn up at English Lit after lunch all wet and smelly and sweating. What fun times.” he said.
He recalls a much smaller school footprint. The canteen was staffed by “lovely mums” and sausage rolls, coffee scrolls, cream buns, salads rolls, doughnuts were on offer.
He was appointed school captain and footy and cricket captain. When he was picked to play for Essendon he featured on the back page of the Age and then Sun with footy socks under his uniform. Simon recalled his mother had to regularly write notes to excuse him from homework as he juggled his footy with school.“It was very hard to fit it all in,” he said.
Simon said he scraped through with a complimentary pass and studied teaching at Mercy Teachers’ College.
His first teaching job was at St Augustine’s in Keilor.
"It was built on a hill, looking out to nothing and on the edge of the suburbs,” he said.
Initially, he was able to fit footy in with teaching but as the demands of footy grew he went part time and at one stage became the house husband.
“Footy was starting to want more and more of your time,” he said.Simon said his own experience helped Justin who would go on to play for Essendon and Carlton
“He saw how hard it was for me. In my first year I came home one night and burst into tears.
My mum told coach Des Tuddenham he was being too hard on her son,” he said.“Justin knew the reality and harshness of the game.”
Simon’s sons Joshua and Isaac also attended St Bernard’s.After football, Simon moved into the business world and now runs Simon Madden Consulting.
He still regularly catches up with his former school friends.During the Covid lockdowns a group of them got together online. “It really kept us going,” he said.
Simon said he is looking forward to seeing many of his former school friends and others during this year’s celebrations.