Jack’s unique journey to the AFL

By Peter Argent

Jack Hayes was widely-regarded as SANFL’s best player last year, culminating in him winning a Jack Oatey Medal in premiership-winning Woodville West Torrens’ outfit.

Last Friday at Marvel Stadium, just days after his 26th birthday, Hayes was finally given his AFL opportunity with St Kilda.

And he certainly grabbed it with both hands after being high among St Kilda’s best players, dragging the Saints back into the contest with a pair of third quarter goals, among three for the match.

Jack’s journey to making it on a AFL list has been full of peaks and troughs.

Growing up as the second of five siblings on the a family farm at Redhill (two hour drive north of the city), Jack followed his older brother Nick through the juniors at the Brinkworth-Spalding-Redhill (BSR) Tigers, then into the College football system with Sacred Heart and through the SANFL junior programs at the Eagles.

He was a member of Junior Colts (Under 14s) flags at the BSR Tigers in the North Eastern Football League and under the tutelage of Brenton Phillips was a part of the 2014 South Australian state Under 18s program, which won the national title with victory against Victoria Metro by nine points in Geelong.

Then Jack Hayes spent the next two seasons playing SANFL reserves football with the Eagles, before finally making his senior debut at the start of the 2017 campaign.

Always noted a strong contested mark with a vice-like grip, Hayes continued to grow as a player over the past five years.

He first played SANFL state senior representative football in 2019 and last year was honoured as captain of the West End State team which defeated Western Australia at Adelaide Oval.

Jack Hayes with family after being presented his N0.47 guernsey. (L to R) – Mum Jo, Dad Frank, brother Nick and his partner Zoe Anastasiou, brother Ryder, brother Luke and brother Cooper.

Hayes’s first AFL jumper was presented to him by North Adelaide 2018 premiership player, and now Saints teammate Callum Wilkie, with proud parents Frank and Jo, along with siblings Nick, Luke, Cooper and Ryder all in attendance.

Wilkie was Hayes’ opponent in the infamous 2018 SANFL Preliminary Final and it’s now folklore that Wilkie told the Saints’ recruiting staff that Jack was as good as any opponents he had encountered in the AFL.

Already with plenty of football IQ, Hayes had grown into a complete player in the SANFL and was ready made to make the next step.

His initial performance against Collingwood in Round One suggests he has the capacity to become a long-term prospect.

Sporting acumen is certainly in the family genes.

His father Frank, whilst staying on the family farm, was a member of the BSR Tigers dynasties of the 1980s and 1990s, playing more than 300 games and in six premierships from 1988 to 2000.

Mum, Jo (nee Hentschke) from a farm at Brinkworth, was an outstanding netballer for the Tigers playing in flags in the 1990s, under Di Heinjus (mother of SANFL League footballers Sam and Joey).

She was actually 16 weeks pregnant with Jack while playing as a key member of the 1995 North East Netball Association A-grade premiership side.

Jack’s older brother Nick was on the Brisbane Lions lists for a couple of years, playing in a NEAFL flag and representative teams, before returning to Oval Avenue and being a member of the 2020 Woodville West Torrens premiership alongside his sibling.

Having moved to Melbourne with work, Nick is currently playing for Werribee in the VFL.

Next after Jack, third son Luke is a little learner in stature. He moved through the grades at the Eagles and has played in the Zone Country Championship a couple of times – in 2019 with the Western Zone and in 2021 with the Central Zone.

He has enjoyed four flags at the BSR Tigers, the past two with fourth son, Cooper.

Frank and Jo’s fifth lad Ryder will enter his final year at Sacred Heart College in 2022.

Jack Hayes (right) fires out a handball playing for BSR in 2010. Picture – Peter Argent

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