By Peter Blucher
In a sport in which loyalty is becoming a fading commodity, Noosa junior Jack Payne has defied the trend to lock in his long-term future with the Brisbane Lions.
The powerhouse ex-Lions Academy defender, an appealing prospect for rival clubs even 12 months ago, had become a hot target after a breakout 2024 season before committing himself to the club through to the of 2029.
Already contracted until 2024, which had kept opposition clubs at arm’s length, he signed a five-year contract extension that is a key piece in the Lions’ list management strategy.
The 23-year-old 197cm defender said specifically he wanted to repay the faith shown in him by the club that gave him his start in the AFL via the Academy in 13.
“I am grateful for everything they have taught me, so it feels right to show my gratitude by signing with the club for another five years,” Payne said. “I love these boys, the club and everything we stand for, and I couldn’t see myself playing anywhere else.”
Payne had gone into the 2023 season having played 27 games in three years since his debut in Round 10 of the 2020 Covid season, but never without any real continuity. He was in and out of the side, playing 1-3-1-3-6-1-3-4-5 games in nine stints at senior level.
But having had a strong 2022 finals campaign, he’s made the most of an extended chance this year following the long-term absence of former first-choice key defender Marcus Adams due to ongoing concussion issues.
As the Lions prepare for the run to the finals he is an automatic pick besides co-captain Harris Andrews at the heart of the back six, and one of the game’s premier lock-down big men.
Payne’s ability to play on the No.1 opposition forward since an early season shift in strategy from coach Chris Fagan has been so important in freeing up Andrews to play more as an interceptor – one of the most important roles in the game.
In confirming the Payne signature today Danny Daly, Lions General Manager of Football, lauded the young defender for the role he has played this season and forecast his Payne’s best football is ahead of him.
“In the space of a few of years, Jack has gone from a promising teenager in our Brisbane Lions Academy to an impressive defender for us in the AFL,” he said. “Each week he is playing on some of the competition’s best forwards and has done some outstanding jobs on those guys, making him a crucial part of our defence.
“This is all a result of Jack putting in the hard work, so he deserves the individual and team success he has experienced so far, and we can’t wait to see what he delivers over the next six years with us.”
Payne’s development has been the icing on the Lions draft “cake” of 2017, when he was picked up at #57 after the club took Cam Rayner at #1, Zac Bailey at #15 and Brandon Starcevich at #18.
Ironically, the re-signing of the big #40 was confirmed in the wake of one of the most disappointing losses of his brief career – his first defeat to Queensland rivals Gold Coast in his fourth meeting and the club’s first after nine QClash wins in a row.
It wasn’t a great weekend for Queenslanders in the AFL in Round 20, as a Lions side that included seven Queenslanders fell to the SUNS side which, for the third week in a row, had no Queenslanders.
Keidean Coleman had 21 possessions for the Lions, more than all except standout Josh Dunkley (30) and Hugh McCluggage (28), but he will miss the Round 21 game against Fremantle in Perth on Sunday after he copped a ball in the face kicked at full-throttle from close range. It caused bleeding behind his eye. Charlie Cameron, too, was a solid contributor with two goals and six tackles.
The standout Queenslander in QClash #25 was an ex-Lions player turned SUNS midfield coach Josh Drummond, who was a key figure in a match-winning SUNS dominance through the midfield.
Drummond, who had stepped away this year from midfield responsibilities with the AFL side to coach the Suns VFL side, was called back to his former club after Stuart Dew was sacked and Steven King took over as interim coach.
Only two Queenslanders enjoyed a Round 20 win. GWS’ Lachie Keeffe returned from a two-week hamstring injury, which in itself was a significant ‘win’ for the veteran swingman and played his role with eight possessions and 11 hit-outs in the Giants’ seventh consecutive win over the Western Bulldogs at Ballarat. Ben Keays had 15 possessions and two goals as Adelaide beat Port Adelaide in the Showdown.