Payne Loving Life Already at Swan Districts

Friday, April 6, 2018 - 9:31 AM by Chris Pike

ANYTIME a prolific ball-winning, hard running wingman with over 100 games of WAFL experience who is a fairest and best winner on a Grand Final team is available, any club would be crazy not to be interested but Steven Payne is just grateful to receive another chance from Swan Districts in 2018.

Payne became a key player at East Perth during his 109-game career that began back in 2011 and by the end of 2014, he had played a big part in the Royals reaching a second straight Grand Final and had just won the club's fairest and best award.

However, over the past two years far too often was he finding his role diminished and even his place in the league team not guaranteed due to the East Perth alignment with West Coast and the AFL-listed players given preferential treatment.

His 109th and last league appearance with East Perth came in Round 7 last year before he decided it just wasn’t worth it anymore after three weeks of averaging 28.3 disposals in the reserves.

It wasn’t the same club that he had first joined almost a decade earlier having moved up from Margaret River and like his good mate Freddie Clutterbuck a couple of years earlier among others, decided he didn’t want to be there anymore.

That meant he couldn’t play WAFL football at all for the rest of 2017, but he did hold out hope that at 27 years of age, another club would think that his proven quality and experience would be appetising to another team in 2018.

When Adam Pickering got the job at Swan Districts as senior coach, the link for Payne was obvious and he was given the all clear to try and prove himself during pre-season training.

He ended up doing enough for Pickering to offer him a spot for 2018 and then was there in Round 1 delivering 17 possessions and six entries inside-50 in Saturday's 45-point victory against Perth at Lathlain Park.

Payne couldn’t have enjoyed his time at Swan Districts so far anymore.

"It's been awesome. As soon as I got down to the club, it just has that traditional, old WAFL club feel about it like East Perth did when I first started playing there," Payne said.

"Everyone knows everyone, everyone is good mates and the supporters are all great. It's hard to explain, but it almost has that traditional country vibe about the place with the picket fence and the old stands and everything.

"You just get the true blue supporters down there who are blue collar workers. It's been awesome and I've loved every minute of it so far."

Payne was given no guarantees on arrival at Swans when he began training, but he impressed enough to earn a contract. But still he wasn’t guaranteed a place in the senior side for Round 1.

His worth ethic and professionalism made him hard to overlook, though, and he was proud to get the nod to take on Perth on Saturday and to enjoy being part of the impressive victory in the finish.

"I found out after our last training session last Thursday night that I would be playing and Pickers got around and told everyone who would be playing," he said.

"I sort of did have a feeling I would be in the starting team, but it was always in the back of my mind that I might not be. I was pretty happy to get the call up last Thursday and to get out there and play on Saturday.

"It was probably a bit weird and getting ready and driving to the game all dressed up in Swans colours, but as soon as I got to the ground the nerves settled down and all the boys got around me and made me feel welcomed.

"I settled in pretty nicely and we got the win which was good. After that I had felt like I'd been at the club for years really."

Tracing back to last year, Payne just wasn’t enjoying life at East Perth anymore and once he was stuck playing reserves for several weeks, he decided the time was right to move on.

He wasn’t sure if that meant he had played his last WAFL game or not at that stage, but he's glad it didn’t turn out to be the case.

"I was in two minds a little bit and I wasn’t sure if wanted to come back to play WAFL and then last year after I walked away from East Perth I couldn't play at another club," Payne said.

"I went back down home and played in Margaret River and in the back of my mind I always thought I would come back and have another crack.

"I wasn’t sure which club I would do that at but Swannies was always a club I enjoyed playing against out at Bassendean. I was lucky enough they picked me up and it's all been good since then."

Payne wasn’t sure where to start in terms of trying to find a new WAFL club, but when Pickering got the job at East Perth the chance was there to join up with a familiar face. Once he talked to him and they were on the same page, the rest took care of itself.

"I gave Pickers a ring to congratulate him on getting the job and I asked him what his thoughts were on me coming down to have a train and see what happens," he said.

"He was happy with that straight away and got me down, but he made sure he wouldn’t take it easy on me and didn’t give me any guarantees.

"He didn’t treat me any differently but it definitely made it easy just to know some familiar faces with him but also Freddie, Jackson Slater and a couple of other guys."

One of Payne's closest friends at East Perth was Clutterbuck and that made for a couple of fascinating battles with the pair facing each other back in 2016 especially when the Royals took on Swans.

Clutterbuck made the move because East Perth just wasn’t the same club it once was and Payne was feeling similar, but stuck it out a little longer. But in the end, the pair are happy to be teammates again even if in reality they are battling over the same spot on the wing.

"We don't really talk about that side of things, but you do think about it a fair bit to be honest," Payne said.

"At the end of the day, Pickers is going to pick the side who he thinks is his best 22 and it probably makes it better knowing there is someone like him knocking on the door.

"That makes you have to play well every game because if you have a couple of off games you'll be back in the reserves because you have someone that quality behind you. It's good to have that sort of competition for spots I reckon."

Being a wingman in an opposition jumper might well be the most uncomfortable position for anyone at Steel Blue Oval with the advice coming over the fence from the Swans faithful.

Payne certainly copped his fair share so he's looking forward to his first home game now this Saturday against Peel Thunder and for the team to continue their impressive start against the premiers of the past two seasons.

"It will be nice to be a Swans player out there now. I usually copped a bit of flak out there on that far wing from the can bar when I was playing for East Perth. It will be nice to get a couple of cheers out there this time. I'm looking forward to it," he said.

"We have the core group of older guys there at the club along with a heap of young guys like Jesse Turner who has just had a wicked pre-season.

"Those guys push the older guys through as well and there's a really good feeling at the club. Pickers has come in with a whole new game style and structure as well so it's been great. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season now."

Not only did Payne find himself a new WAFL club over summer, but his life took another major turn when he got married to Courtney in December back down in Margaret River.

"Married life has been pretty good so far anyway. It's not too much different really, you just have a ring on your finger but it has been good," Payne said.

"Courtney loves her footy too and I think she was happier than me when I got the all clear to go to Swans because she loves watching a bit of footy. She was a bit bored on the weekends without getting to watch it so it's good for both of us I think."