Michael Simpson has continued to be a key figure for the Eastern Raptors Rugby League Club, with the generous club man now stepping into the role of President, just over 10 years since he played a pivotal role in establishing the club back in 2011.
Simpson was part of a small team involved in starting the club, taking on the role of Treasurer as they incorporated the club and initiated the initial playing roster before formally joining in the 2012 season.
It hadn’t been since the Maroondah Magpies Rugby League Club competed in the then VRL competition in 2005, had a club been based out of the Eastern suburbs.
It all became a possibility largely thanks to the donations from passionate rugby league fan and rabbi Andrew McIntyre.
With McIntyre's donations and the help of Murray Newhham and Len Mason, an ad was put out into the paper calling on anyone in the area to attend a meeting – an opportunity Simpson jumped at.
“Me and my dad [Mick Simpson] saw the article in the paper, we thought we’d go along and see what it’s all about and it’s all grown from there,” Simpson said.
“The five of us that created the first committee, we managed to get some kids together and played some trials and practice games, wrote up the constitution rules and the marketing plans and build it all up from there,” Simpson said.
“I wanted to make sure that if I did have kids, there would be a club for him or her to play at if they wanted to”.
Growing up in Penrith, Simpson credited the emergence of the Melbourne Storm as a key force behind his love for rugby league.
“When the Storm joined the competition, we went to the first game and I was hooked and from there I’ve always had a passionate following for rugby league,” the Eastern Raptors President said.
“If the Storm hadn’t started I always wonder if the Raptors would have started to be honest.”
After helping guide the club through their first year in the role of Treasurer, Simpson returned to the club five years ago when his own son James was old enough to join the Raptors U/6’s side.
Since then, it’s become quite the family affair, with his wife Lynne taking on the role of secretary and James still running around in the U/11’s.
“Once the club was established and running, I went back to my life, had a family, and focused on my career and so on," he said.
"I still used to take my little boy down in his pram and hang around with the guys and now as he’s gotten old enough to play that’s when I got back involved."
Simpson hopes that one day he will see the first child who joined the U/6’s progress all the way through to seniors – a feat still yet to be achieved by the club.
“We started as a junior club and we’ve only had seniors for the past four years now, so I hope that it comes in my residency to have a kid from the U/6's progress all the way to seniors," he said.
The club has come a long way since Simpson first helped the club get off the ground and he hopes they can continue to grow in size in the coming years.
“We had 110 registrations last year, that included volunteers and players and we’re on track for 130 this year,” he said.
“When I first came back 5 years ago and looked at numbers from when we first set the club up it’s been growing 10-20% each year and it’s a really established community now.”
The club celebrated its 10 year anniversary last year.
A full list of the club's founding members can be found on the Eastern Raptors website. https://www.easternraptors.com.au/trophyroom.html