David Payne, Football and Conquering Addictions




David Payne is, like me, a recovering alcoholic. To conquer an addiction it is all about finally being honest to yourself.


But back to the beginning, David is the son of Kevin and Heather and is the youngest child, following Marilyn, Lynette, John and Robert. David went to Hillcrest Primary School and then Gilles Plains High School, arriving at the Parade in ’81, playing Under 17s, but didn’t play finals, then in the 1982 Under 17s Premiership side, then the 1983 Under 19s flag. David mentions Frank Leonard as his biggest influence as a junior, encouraging him to show his natural flair and just show every one all of his abundant ability.


Payne helps demolish Dogs is at the 1h 32 min mark of the following clip:


David started off the year in the Under 19s, kicking 24 goals in three games, then another 24 in five games in the ressies before his senior debut in Round 9 and kicking 30 goals for the season at that level (a casual 78 from a small forward for the year!).


David Payne at The Parade in 1984

Payney was exactly what the doctor ordered. His pace was vital, kicking five against the Roosters at Prospect and having an influential finals series, performing his role against South Adelaide in the elimination final, then being vital with five goals against Centrals in the First Semi. He was seemingly targeted physically by Glenelg in the prelim and then again stood up when it counted in the history makers 1984 Grand Final win (first side to come from fifth to win the flag). And what Redleg can forget the beautiful sight of Glen Vardanega picking up on the half volley, giving off to Payney who goes long, Rocky Roberts rises up over the late Anthony Williams, spills the mark but recovers to kick his sixth and the camera going to the fist pumping, Neil Balme!


What a marvelous Don Bradman it was, Norwood 15.10 100 def Port 13.13 91.

A huge week of celebrations followed, the Redlegs club on the Sunday, Grenfell Tavern Wednesday night, Old London Friday night, the winners really were the pubs of Adelaide!

David had a consistent career with his pace and his goal kicking nous his main attribute. Payney pipped at the post by the barest of margins in the 1989 Best and Fairest by Rodney “Rocket” Maynard, while he won the 1991 goalkicking award with 51 sausage rolls. Norwood certainly underachieved to some extent in David’s career, particularly the frustration of third place finishes in 1987, 1988, and 1989.

David Payne under pressure from Port Adelaide’s Mark Williams in 1990

Not wanting to gloss over David’s career whatsoever but wanting to focus on other areas, pointing out the fact Payney made my best ever Norwood side (the qualifying point is players who I have seen play so from 1973 onwards, had to have played at least two seasons, re. lineball selections longevity and club awards came in to it, and for the bench versatility and picking a game situation re. talls and smalls was used).


David started his career wearing number 52. Legendary property steward Smokie Dawson offered David several different number choices; David chose 17 as it was his brother John’s number and also re. David’s respect for Greg Turbill.

David points out his major footy influences being long term coach, Neil Balme, helped by Neville Roberts and Michael Aish and of course the legendary Garry McIntosh with his voice and showing the way, while Lester Ross was a player he looked up to getting the absolute maximum out of himself. Brenton Klaebe’s help over the journey and James Fantasia’s friendship, advice and particularly in a mentoring role. David’s number one footy wish was that he was three inches taller or is that in all spots, Payney (David’s family also immensely important but will return to that)?

Payne celebrates a win with Martin Pike & Garry McIntosh in 1991

David’s career finished at Norwood part of the way through 1993 – at times communication in sporting clubs isn’t as good as it should be. David then played for Pooraka under ex-Redleg Roger “Froggy” Murdoch, playing in a flag in 1994 in the SAFA Div 1 competition. Payney coached Pooraka in 1996, ’97, and ’98 including a flag in Div 2 in the SAAFL comp in 1997. David is full of praise for Pooraka as a club, in particular President Roger Steen, Assistant coach Bobby Kent and runner, ex-Redleg goalkicker Mark Ducker, and Bobby “Sprigger” Kent, a personality around town, also played (with your connections Sprigger that should be at least 300 more people click on the article). David also coached Walkerville, admitting problems with the booze didn’t help that tenure, also at Ingle Farm where David says the club were good but struggled with lower grade amateur footy, especially the commitment re. training.

David played in a era when drinking and socialising was just about a badge of honor and where players turning up for Sunday’s recovery sessions under the weather was the norm. It was also the era where all clubs’ players tended to be at Sam’s Disco at Norwood on the Saturday night and the Bays’ disco on the Sunday night. They were just about South Aussie institutions celebrating wins or commiserating losses were very much the done thing – how times have changed. So much more knowledge re. recovery and effects of alcohol on the body are known.

David adds that the buzz of being an SA league footballer was huge – being readily recognised and certainly opened doors particularly socially and that the regimented lifestyle and structure of training life and looking forward to the next week’s game was huge. David adds, while coaching filled the void to some extent for him, it didn’t replace the exhilaration of playing league footy and again in reflection there was a problem with alcohol and gambling earlier, it then spiralled out of control. It was just easy to wander in to a pub and have a drink. David separated with his wife Lisa three times and is eternally grateful that Lisa took him back and that children Devin, Giles and Seanna also accepted him and allowed him to mend the bridges.

In 2012, through the urging of his brother John he went to a Christian retreat calle Karobran, moving in on 23 January and not leaving till 17 August. He had limited contact with the outside world and describes it as a life changing experience, learning self control and in a lot of respects learning communication and honesty. Stop bullshiting basically (this resonates with me as while I hadn’t gotten into as dark a hole as Payney, I was headed that way, it’s five and a half years since I have had a drink and there is a mutual respect with Payney, we discuss this and understand each other).

David adds his friendship group changed and that people think he is a nicer person not drinking (yep I get that). David had also got himself into serious financial difficulties and had to negotiate a settlement with the bank which was challenging.

David wishes to thank the Norwood FC, in particular the Redlegs Foundation and board members Rick Neagle and Max Pfitzner who went above and beyond, also adding that Andrew Aish, in his position as a sports chaplain, is a special caring human being. The Norwood FC showed again it is a special environment and looked after its own, this is not to be taken lightly, the funds and resources available are not at AFL levels, thank you to every one who contributed. David has worked in the gardening and landscaping game and is now employed by the Norwood FC, firstly working at the ground as assistant ground keeper and king of odd jobs and now, in a show of how far his life has progressed, helping look after the Norwood FC gaming venue The NorEast.

David adds the support of his WHOLE family has been important in helping him recover and adds that life will always present challenges, but he now feels he has his life under control, thanks Payney!


  1. Great article Book
    Very inspiring DP, well done and great to see the NFC supporting their past players

  2. Dave Ridge says

    Well done Malcolm and Payney. An article of great courage from you both. Much respect!!
    Loved watching David play. He was hugely inspirational to those of us short in stature that played the game. Never to the quality of Payney unfortunately. But that’s why he is a Norwood Champion and I a lucky spectator. Lucky to witness his brilliance from the outer as a primary school aged kid. Thankyou Payney!!

  3. John Cunningham says

    Good read Malcolm. Payney always comes across as a great bloke so good to see he is doing well. Cheers JC

  4. Enjoyed the post Malcolm. Thanks for also sharing your own journey. David’s brother John was the former North player? Pity David didn’t find his way to Prospect….

  5. Michael Rehn says

    That is an excellent article Malcolm Ashwood. I was lucky enough to know David quite well in the mid 80s, and had the highest regard for him and the deeds he could perform on field. I am not at all surprised that David has been able to recover from his struggles. As a footballer he always showed remarkable courage and resilience, the two keys to recovery from a tough situation. Poor health forced many changes on me and my habits in later years so I really do understand how difficult it can be to make dramatic life changes. I’m really glad that David has moved forward so well and wish him much success and happiness in the future.

  6. Barry Solomon says

    Great write up mal, good luck to payney, it’s indeed been a pleasure in recent times working alongside him and chatting daily about the history and memories in such a great place. In this day and age, it’s just a fantastic story of perseverance and strength to rise above the struggles. As it says in the players race “strength in adversity” love ya payney. We r team.

  7. This article really stands out Rulebook. A look at the other side of football and post-football as well.
    Glad to hear you are both still scoring goals against your opponents.
    But, there is intriguingly more hinted at in the story “…at times communication in sporting clubs isn’t as good as it should be”.

  8. I remember David as dangerous small forward humiliating my West Torrens Eagles in the 80’s (didn’t everyone?). More power to his and your arm Malcolm for being so honest and open about the journey with addiction. As a recovering compulsive gambler who just stepped back from the edge in time to rebuild a great life, I know how difficult and confusing the journey is. Great courage. Great persistence. You fall like a stone and you rise like a feather.
    I am quite open about my journey despite the shame and hurt to others that I caused, because recovery is possible if you want it enough and are prepared to be honest and humble – as you say RB. And also because I think addiction is far more common than we admit. Having seen both sides of the fence – latterly as a community mental health worker – my hunch is 10-20% of adults have “a bit of a problem with drugs, the grog or the punt adversely affecting their lives”. Online gambling through social media apps on sport of all sorts is rife among young men and in our schools.
    I would like to see all forms of gambling advertising and marketing banned (as we have done with booze and fags – because of the public health cost to governments from related diseases). This will minimise harm to future generations, but I am a great believer in free choice including the freedom to make bad decisions (repeatedly in the case of addicts). Governments and sporting bodies like the AFL etc etc all have their snouts in the gambling trough, so harm minimisation and recovery is a community and personal responsibility (as it should be – and was for you, me and David).
    Anyone suffering (or their affected families and concerned friends) should call out the behaviour and get professional help. Love the person – hate the behaviour. Wanting to believe the best only creates more wasted years of pain for everyone. We only change when we suffer enough and reach rock bottom.
    By all means doctors and medication can help and should always be involved. But ultimately it’s a personal life/identity change journey. No-one ever recovers on their own. After the rigorous self honesty and life review of a Rehab like Karobran (I did a similar 12 Step one 15 years ago) the most important thing is the sort of COMMUNITY and CONNECTION that the amazing Redleg community has provided for David.
    On a related note it was great to see Ryan Fitzgerald’s honesty with Bob Murphy on Foxtel last night talking about walking away with nothing from 4 years AFL footy with the Swans and Crows because of the punt. Gambling marketing seeks to normalise risk taking behaviour among vulnerable young men (women prefer the privacy and “glamour” of casinos/clubs). Speaking publicly about the problem and the way out normalises recovery – not the private shame and confusion that fuels continuing the destruction.
    Great stuff – well done David and Malcolm and the Redlegs.

  9. Rick Neagle says

    Great article Rulebook. Payney is a hero, someone I truly look up to within the NFC. There are many battles that we all face during the journey, and Payney has conquered them all.

  10. Josh Bird says

    Great read Malcolm, an important topic that needs to be talked about. People often forget how hard it can be to step back from footy and move back into a ‘normal’ life, and all too often you hear stories how ex-afl/sanfl players haven’t coped after retirement and moving on from the game. I highly commend Payney (and yourself) for being so open with your battles, and it’s great for others to see who may be dealing with it, that there can be light at the end of the tunnel if you find the right support and are honest with yourself and your problems.

  11. Inspirational, RB.
    Best wishes to David Payne, and best wishes to you also.

    P.S. That property steward has a great name!

  12. Phillip Dimitriadis says

    Terrific piece, Book.
    Appreciate your courage and honesty. Wishing you and David all the very best. One day at a time and easy does it.

  13. RB another gem of a piece. Honest. I love the honesty in all these pieces you write. And I love the human story behind the football stars. It’s totally refreshing. You do good work.

    Good luck to anyone fighting their demons

  14. Malcom I’m super proud of what u Have achieved and good to see u have come a long way and this is one of the best articles I have read

  15. Great article which shows not just the strength and resilience of dealing with addiction, but the care and support the Norwood Football Club has for its past and present players. David was a great player for Norwood during the 80’s and early 90’s and it’s pleasing to see that he’s doing well today.

  16. Dave Brown says

    Admirably honest as always, Rulebook (the way we have raised men in preceding generations discouraging such openness, meaning this is an incredibly brave act). Always loved Payney as a player, but it’s always a sliding door moment for me – would 1990 have unfolded differently if we hadn’t allowed Port to dominate that period of SANFL footy (well, the finals series anyway). More power to the club ensuring there is a community for former players to engage with.

  17. Willow Wilson says

    A really good article Book, hats off to you and David for being open enough to share you stories. The more publicity there is about battling and coping with addiction the less stigmatised it will become, which has to be a good thing.
    As a kid I was a half forward flanker, permanent forward pocket and really admired David as a player. Tough, courageous and great skills in an era where the SANFL was a really tough competition, which is not to say that it isn’t now, but I think the physicality is different.
    Couldn’t agree more with Peter B’s comments about banning gambling advertising.
    Keep up the good work Book and well played.

  18. Daniel Ashwood says

    Proud of you Dad, I don’t know how hard it was for you but I really appreciate that you did it. Love you.

  19. Well done Book.

    Anyone who has found this insightful, interesting, helpful and/or giving hope in that difficult transition from “celebrity” to “normal member of society”, should also read “Not all Black & White” – Scott Hodges’ very honest , open, and at time gruelling co-written Autobiography.

    Yep, completely agree re Banning Gambling Advertising too!

  20. Great yarn and your human interest yarns are great Mal. Any thought of dabbling as a sports journo mate? U’d be great!

  21. Karen Eastwood says

    What a great read, he was my favourite player in the day..being a 16 year old at that 84 gf i had pictures all over my bedroom wall of him. Was lucky enough to watch the 84 premiership team train that week at my high school gym, accidentally bumping into them so the team manager let me watch..my parents didn’t know where i was and i got into trouble but was worth it…and got autographs..thanks Malcolm for this great memory.

  22. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    More power to you both

  23. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Paddles thank you.Dave yes wasn’t easy re being so honest and yes,Payney gave hope for small and slight footballers well and truly.Thanks JC.Michael thank you well said and all the best.Bazz it was enjoyable to watch you two together yep strength in adversity thank you.Charlie I will double check but I think not related ( will check for sure ) 6% thank you and comment,Wally May no comment good comment,Wally.PB honesty is the only way and couldn’t agree more re help is more than useful but a individual must make there own decisions and choices totally agree re bloody gambling adds.Rick yep Payney has well and truly come out the other side.Josh v well said,Smokie thank you and the late,Smokie Dawson is a legend at the parade thanks folks

  24. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Phillip yep one day at a time is the only way to go thank you.Dips greatly appreciated.James thanks mate and yes life has taken its twists and turns since we first met.Paul well put and thank you.Dave you nailed it yes bloody hard to be so honest certainly not the stiff upper lip sort of attitude my generation was raised in and yes things could have turned out differently both on and off field it’s ironic personally I am happy we are not in the multi million dollar corporation world of the afl and still in the SANFl for me it’s more real and yes community re past players and officials is vital.Willow agree totally re trying to remove the stigma and you grew a tad more than,Payney and I detest the gambling adds.Daniel love you mate and your comment has made my day well and truly thank you.Paul totally agree re Scott Hodges book it is chilling in parts huge respect for his honesty.Kossy not good enough re grammar greatly appreciated tho and thanks Luke for your brilliant job editing.Karen great stuff had a laugh reading your tale and thanks,Swish greatly appreciated thanks folks

  25. Good article Book and again you showcase the private human side of some of our sporting idols. Awesome to hear DP is doing well. I do remember smashing beers with him at Sam’s and having to slow down.
    Nice to read your son’s comments as well.

  26. Simon Trenorden says

    Folks what I love about Malcolm’s articles is that he humanises the myths/legends/truth about these fellas who played league footy. A lot of people only remember these players for what they saw on the footy field and that’s there only impression they have of them. However when you humanise (if there is such a word) these blokes it gives a fascinating insight to the fact that that they are flesh and blood like the rest of us. I take my hat off to you Malcolm for your insights to the players you have written about thus far.

  27. Michael Aish says

    Well done again Malcolm great work. Great to see Payney at the club and in good health. Karobran as Malcolm has said is a Christian retreat. The love they have for God and the care for those there is amazing. No matter what we face there is always hope. I dont know Davids wife Lisa very well but do know a little about what she and the kids would have had to deal with. Love and forgiveness is what its all about. Great stuff Lisa,Devin, Giles and Seanna,. The Norwood football club is a family. It doesn’t just include the players past and present and the officials past and present but all the supporters as well.
    What really matters in life is people and the significant different our lives can make in the lives of others.I am proud of you big brother for the love and care you show to all those at the club and their families in your roll as chaplain. Malcolm as always love you passion for the legs.

  28. Luke Reynolds says

    Great piece Malcolm.
    Well done to yourself and David for fighting your battles, for making it through.
    194 games, 311 goals and a flag. That’s a magnificent career by D.Payne, obviously a sensational footballer.

  29. Craig "Fester" Paech says

    Footy Clubs. No place on Earth like them. I firmly believe that our beloved Norwood Football Club “saved” my life, at the minimum turned it around.
    Another great read Rulebook, and good to see Payney and yourself “on the straight and narrow”!!

  30. Cameron Glenn says

    Another great article and well written. Some tough battles fought there on field and off.

  31. Frank Bria says

    Firstly to Payney, look forward to catching up again soon with you, James (Fantasia) and Stewie (Duane Stewart) and reminiscing about our junior days together in the under 17’s and 19’s. More importantly I’m proud of you and your family for fighting through the challenges of your addiction mate, and coming through the other side intact. Malcolm, fantastic article again and well done to you also for your honesty and getting through your battles. And I hate all those gambling ads too (with a passion). To all the past and present players, officials and supporters of the greatest and most caring football club in Australia, I am proud to call NFC my club.

  32. Martin Rumsby says

    A strong article, which provides not only an insight to the life of a great footballer, but also to the social norms and support mechanisms surrounding football clubs. It was also a brave move to reveal your own issues with alcohol. Best wishes to David and his family as he continues his fight with alcohol … and to you and yours as well, Malcolm.

  33. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Chris thank you.Simon greatly appreciated and that is part of the reason I have a crack at writing.
    Aishy superb.Thanks Luke and for your help I appreciate it massively.Fester sporting clubs are just a vital part of the community just wish the afl would realise that and help grass roots footy far more and thank you.Cameron thank you.Frank thank you and love what you have written you nail it.Martin as always thank you for your care and support for the nfc and ashwood family in general thank you

  34. Andrew Killey says

    I loved watching DP play, he made things happen or finished things off.
    Also enjoyed reading this article. Good work.

  35. Good read Rulebook once again. The topic of excessive drinking and sport is socially challenging. Thanks for sharing. It really shouldn’t be a peer pressure situation nowadays. Nothing wrong with having a beer with your mates but if a player chooses not to drink to celebrate a game, well done! They’ve made a wise choice for their health. Your alcohol choice has been a good one. well done RB

  36. Great article rb. If it helps one person out there it will be well worth the effort.

  37. Jill Tahtra says

    I`m sorry to be so late answering this Malcolm but now that I can drive again and am doing so well I`m hardly ever home!

    This is very inspirational and what a great lady his wife is to take him back as so many wouldn`t have after the first time. Yes his kids too but depending on their ages they would probably still be with Mum if young.

    I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be to atop drinking, gambling or smoking as they all seem to take hold of people and do seem to cause a lot of problems for everyone. It must take so much strength to beat them so congratulations to all who have achieved this. I`ve always said glad I never took up smoking as I`m sure I wouldn`t have been able to stop.a miser so gambling has never interested me so I have been so lucky. Alcohol and gambling have never been a problem as I dont like the taste of wines or beers ancd I`m a miser with money!

    Once again a great report mate and congrats again to all who have come out through the other door, you are all so great.

  38. Steven Barratt says

    To David Payne
    We go back a long time and have great memories playing teal cup together and spending time at the Marion Bay shack with Kiki Rosberg and Macca. Will never forget the day fishing on maccas boat when the engine wouldn’t start and watching Macca just pop another beer saying “she’ll be right”. Payney, what a footballer, tough, courageous and an abundance of skill. Will always remember the goals you kicked jammed in the wood street forward pocket. You were a talent. Moreover, you are a good person and will always remain a great friend of mine. I can associate with the article, as when the SANFL was the no1 comp in SA players were treated like gods and the transition away from that is very difficult. We have all had our challenges and Payney yours is one of many we face and I am so pleased you are through the worst of it. Catch up soon Barro

  39. Well done again Malcolm and courage to the little man who had style and grace on the field and now showing those skills now in life, the Redlegs Foundation is the new Carmel Court of present era helping many past players who require help. Credit to Andrew Aish and Payney’s mates who were there for him.

  40. Great read Book.

    Payney a great player and even better bloke. Awesome to see your back at Norwood and continuing your road to recovery. Remember those days at Pooraka very fondly.

  41. John Griffen says

    Bloody good read Book
    Honest and a reminder that so many struggle with alcohol .
    A massive decision to go and seek help the way he did , I believe ice addicts the new alcoholics.
    Can’t remember you ever drinking when at the Blacks. The Norwood footy club lucky to have you reminding us about past present players .
    You could have been a Panther

  42. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Andrew thank you.Raf I reckon we as a society are finally moving in that direction and greatly appreciated.Raj you have nailed it.Jill sensational that your health is improving and thank you.Steven I am smiling picturing,Macca saying she’ll be right ! love your comment thank you.Schmaaly bloody good description of the Redlegs Foundation,well said re Andrew and others who helped.Sheepy thank you.
    Coach entirely agree re ice addicts the new alcoholics and no doubt what so ever I drank to much along with realistically many others while at the blacks and yes both our lives would have been a hell of a lot different if you had have been appointed,South coach which you should have been thanks folks

  43. Eugene Taheny says

    Great detailed story of David’s journey and as others have mentioned, that the love David has received is amazing.

    In my playing days at Woodville l always had so much respect for the Norwood FC and the players l played against…..always professional and respectful for others. That same professionalism and respect is now supporting one of their own….??

    Well done David, his family and the Norwood FC…….first class..!

  44. I met you David one night at some Adelaide club, we had fun and you told me that I had the best thighs you had ever seen on a girl. We arranged to meet the next night but I stood you up because the next day I was told who you were. You hadn’t bragged to me, we just enjoyed being in the moment. Not that I had a clue of football players anyway. Sorry I stood you up. I am very proud of you for working on living sober. Addiction does not discriminate upon where it lands. Keep moving forward xx

  45. Great read. Proud to be associated with NFC. Well done to you both. xoxo ????

  46. Barry Badher says

    I am glad to hear that you are doing well David as I knew David quiet well as a kid as we knocked around Hillcrest as kids, played against him once in u17s whilst at North Adelaide.

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