JOHN Payne was chosen for Australia on the back of hugely impressive performances for Queensland against New South Wales in the 1975 inter-state series.
Payne, who died today, aged 74, after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease, was a fiery red head forward, who knew no fear, but instilled fear in his opponents.
Born at Woodenbong, in northern New South Wales, Payne played his first senior football for Wests in Brisbane, and went on to also play first grade for Valleys, Easts and Norths in the old BRL, as well as having stints with Norths, Parramatta and Manly in the Sydney premiership.
He played six matches for Queensland – five against New South Wales and one against champion English club, St Helens – in 1975-76.
North Sydney’s Welsh coach, Roy Francis signed Payne for the Bears after the second rower’s outstanding performance for Valleys in their 14-2 loss to Norths Devils in the 1969 Brisbane grand final.
In the 1976 BRL grand final, Payne scored Easts’ only point – a field goal – in their 16-1 loss to Wests at Lang Park, in front of a crowd of 37,000. Payne kicked the field goal just five minutes into the match, later revealing a sponsor had offered $50 to the first points scorer for the Tigers.
His final season was 1980, and by then he was playing at Norths’ Devils. They went on to win the premiership, but Payne did not get to play in the grand final.
At different stages, a brewery truck driver, publican and wine company representative, Payne coached Souths’ first grade in Brisbane, as well as Easts’ reserve grade. There also was a stint as coach of Oakey, in the Toowoomba competition.
He had many appointments with the judiciary during his career, and, on one occasion was cited for felling a rival forward, off the field, at half time, as they entered the dressing rooms.
In 1975 he was part of a Queensland side which took a 1-0 lead in the inter-state series, with a 14-8 win at Lang Park.
His selection for Australia – for a match against France in Brisbane – was the proudest moment of his career, but also provided arguably his biggest disappointment.
Payne spent the entire match on the bench, with Australian captain-coach, Graeme Langlands ignoring him, as the home side defeated the French 28-6. He was never chosen for Australia again, and his name is not featured in official Test records.
But his photograph, in his full Australian kit, adorns the walls at Easts Leagues Club in Brisbane.
John Payne had two children – a son, Paul (who played first grade for Norths) – and a daughter, Tracey.
Footnote: I played with John at Norths Brisbane in 1979,and have interviewed him a number of times over the years, in my role as a league journalist. I also have seen him regularly at the football, social functions and Men of League activities. He was always great company.
Photo: John Payne is given his marching orders at Bishop Park.