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Paynter back 'home'

Will Paynter played 12 games for Adelaide's SANFL team in 2014
Will Paynter played 12 games for Adelaide's SANFL team in 2014
I played my first game in the SANFL for the Crows against North Adelaide. It was pretty intense, but an amazing experience.
Will Paynter

The son of a 300-game SANFL star says he almost gave up on League football before Adelaide’s development squad program rekindled his love for the game.

Will Paynter, the son of former Sturt captain John, has had to carry the weight of expectation on his shoulders given his father’s legendary status in South Australian Football.

‘Jack’ Paynter won four best and fairests and kicked over 300 goals across a 13-year career with Glenelg and the Double Blues. The skilled midfielder represented South Australia on six occasions and was one of the state’s most iconic footballers through the 1980s.

Will, a talented player in his own right, showed great promise in two seasons of junior football at Unley Oval. The Prince Alfred College graduate played 19 games with the Double Blues’ U18s team and had his first taste of senior football in 2011, when he played seven games with Sturt’s reserves side.

But Paynter’s passion for the sport dampened the following year. He struggled to break into Sturt’s reserves team and found himself playing the bulk of his football in the amateur ranks with Adelaide University.

Paynter left the club where his father’s name was lore and played a full season with the Blacks’ Division One side in 2013 alongside his older brother Seb.

“I think I just wanted to try and enjoy my footy again,” Paynter said of his sabbatical from SANFL football.

That summer however, the 189cm, 83kg wingman received an invitation to join Adelaide’s inaugural development squad.

Paynter took the opportunity with both hands, impressing Heath Younie and Adelaide’s SANFL coaching panel enough to be selected in Adelaide’s inaugural State League team in Round One, 2014.

“It was awesome,” Paynter said of his debut.

“I played my first game in the SANFL for the Crows against North Adelaide. It was pretty intense, but an amazing experience.”

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Paynter, a plumber by trade, became a regular fixture in Adelaide’s SANFL side and notched another 11 appearances throughout the season.

The 22-year-old accepted an offer at the end of the year to return to Sturt and has excelled in the Double Blues jumper. He’s played every game of the 2015 season so far with an average of 14 disposals per match at 83 per cent efficiency.

But Paynter credits the Crows for renewing his desire to pursue a future in League football.

“Playing with the Crows last year got me back into League football, but it was more that, I just started enjoying my footy again,” he said.

“That’s probably half the reason why I decided to go back out to Sturt.

“It was an invaluable experience and it also gave me that opportunity to learn and improve my football a lot.”

Crows SANFL coach Heath Younie said he was proud, rather than disappointed, to see Paynter return to his original club.

“We’re delighted to play a small part in helping young guys like Will find their feet again in the SANFL,” he said.

“If we can provide an opportunity for these players to showcase their talent and be picked up by another club, then we’re all for it.

“He’s an impressive young man and it’s a great story. We wish him all the best.”

Paynter is likely to line up against the Crows for the first time when Sturt hosts Adelaide at Peter Motley Oval on Sunday afternoon.

“It will be a little bit weird,” he said.

“But there are a lot of different players who weren’t there last year, so it should be alright.

“I’m looking forward to it.”


The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs