He goes by many names including the Wizard of Woy Woy, but to Central Coast Mariners fans there is no greater sign of respect than to describe Matt Simon simply as “club legend”.
Put him along side John Hutchinson and you could not find two more dedicated, passionate, heart on sleeve and true to the Mariners’ cause competitors than Hutch and Simmo.
While Hutchinson it’s now expanding his coaching knowledge overseas, Simon is still an ever present at the Mariners even if fortune has deserted him this season through an unfortunate neck injury that would have totally floored someone of lesser character and strength.
As much as the Mariners have enjoyed another great season, a piece of their heart has been missing given Matty hasn’t figured in any of the club’s A-League games because of the injury he suffered during the win over Blacktown City in an FFA Cup game back on November 13.
Simon thought nothing of the injury, which came just eight days out from the start of the A-League season, at the time but little did he know it would turn out to be much more serious – serious enough that he has still to get back on the field.
Simon picks up the story: “I remember feeling funny on the top of the shoulder and neck after one of the headers in the game against Blacktown.
“I came off after the game and said to Doctor King I felt funny in the neck, shoulder and back and had some numbness and tingling.
“I had an MRI and it didn’t show anything too serious, just a little tear next to the spine in the T7 and T8 section and no major concern to the doctors, however it kept getting worse.
“On the day of the opening match against Newcastle, all of sudden the pain in my arm … I can’t explain it, I have never felt anything like it before.
“I left it and thought I’d get to the ground and take some anti inflammatory pills and I’d be OK. But, once I got into the car to drive to Ollie Bozanic’s place the pain became overwhelming.
“I contemplated driving to the hospital then pulling over and calling an ambulance. I got to Ollie’s house and he knew something was wrong. He drove me to the emergency department and he literally carried me in there.
“After some four to six hours of testing, it was found there was a bulging disc crushing the nerve root exiting the spinal cord.
“Over the next four weeks it was decided to try to fix the issue with a steroid injection and medication but nothing was working and the pain was like nothing else I have experienced. It was excruciating, so the surgeon decided to go in and see if he could fix the issue.”
The surgery proved to be a blessing. The MRI hadn’t shown that Simon’s C7 disc had ruptured, as a result of the injury he suffered in the match against Blacktown, and that a piece of the disc was crushing the nerve root.
“The surgeon was shocked and amazed how bad the disc was. He said the only way they could have picked it up was through surgery,” Simon said. “It is lucky they picked it up quickly otherwise there was a real risk of long term damage to the arm if not treated.”
Simon has gone through some tough times since, admitting that “going through the injury and surgery, you start playing mind games with yourself”.
“Obviously it has been very hard not featuring this season and, to be honest, it has been heartbreaking not to be involved and have to sit in the stands and watch the team every week,” he added.
Thankfully, he says the support from the club and his teammates has helped him get through the situation.
He hasn’t lost hope of maybe getting on to the bench and having an influence as an impact player.
In the meantime, Matty will do what Matty loves doing – helping out at the club wherever he can, mentoring the young players and providing the passion and determination that has made him a fan favourite and a Mariners legend.