He “wouldn’t play more than local footy,” according to a former coach, but three NEAFL clubs, two flags and 100 NEAFL games later, Southport’s Jed Turner is still proving the doubters - and himself - wrong.
After stints with Aspley, Sydney Uni, Aspley again and now Southport, the well-travelled ruckman is set to be the NEAFL’s newest centurion as he takes on his former Students teammates this Saturday, a feat a junior Jed would “never have dreamt of.”
With a heavy basketball background as a junior, Turner only took football seriously after turning 18. After playing division two as a 16-year-old for Maroochydore, he began searching for senior QAFL opportunities with Redland.
A Sunshine Coast native, Turner continued to reside there while making the commute to Redland bay several times a week, an effort he admits burnt him out.
After failing to crack the senior squad with Redland, he returned to the Maroochydore Roos playing division one, but received little support from his coaches that further opportunities would be possible.
Turner refused to let the doubters interfere with his drive
to play at the highest level he could, approaching Aspley football manager Mark
Perkins and asking if he could train with the club ahead of the 2014 season.
“I was pretty fortunate,” Turner said.
“They were cutting the team within two weeks, but I had every opportunity to come and show what I had, and I was fortunate enough to make the side and end up winning a flag that year with the boys.”
It was a remarkable debut season for Turner, who not only was a part of Aspley’s famous 2014 premiership side, but played in all 20 games, and made the NEAFL representative team that year.
“I had a real desire to prove my old coach wrong who said I wouldn’t play for anywhere else but that club, so I had a fair bit of drive to prove a few people wrong, and to prove to myself that I could do it,” he said.
“I never really tried to excel in basketball, my brothers both played for Australia, and I never really had the interest to excel in that. With footy, I had that fire in my belly, I think that was something that really drove me to try and succeed as much as I could that year. It paid off. We got to win a flag, to play in most NEAFL games that year as well.
“That 2014 year was an odd first year of (NEAFL) football.”
Never one to settle, it was partly Turner’s ambition for success, as well as his devotion to his now wife that drew him to move southbound and spend a season with Sydney Uni, where he admits football took a backseat.
“In 2014 I met my now wife, she had moved to Sydney, so that was another major reason to go to Sydney to be with her, and to also try and chase footy. It backfired once I fell in love; football took a backseat, which is why my year down there probably wasn’t as successful as what 2014 was, I had other things on mind,” Turner said.
Turner was welcomed with open arms back to Aspley in 2016, but living on the Gold Coast to establish his still-running construction business, he struggled to see football as joy rather than a chore.
With plans to marry and honeymoon in 2017, Turner’s inability to commit to Aspley for only half a season sealed the letter for him leaving the Hornets.
In discussions with the Palm Beach Currumbin Football Club ahead of the 2017 season, Turner noted how it was never his intention to play for Southport, but as the Sharks caught wind of his availability, his future changed quickly.
“I’d decided I would have a year off and just focus on work, getting married and everything like that, but once I shut the door on Palm Beach Currumbin, Fieldsy (Southport GM of Football Jarrod Field), as all good managers do, heard through the grapevine (that I was available).
“He (Field) sat me down, had a chat and they were happy to sign me for two years, and were also happy to only have me for the first half of the first season, as long as I was back the following year.”
In his two seasons with Southport, Turner has experienced the true highs and lows of a football club, finishing ninth place in 2017 and premiers in 2018, and while “winning a flag is winning a flag,” the experiences of each occurred in distinctly different circumstances.
“The way we won in 2014 was remarkable, you can probably never replace that feeling of that kind of a comeback, as well as topping it off with the year I’d had,” Turner said.
“But last year, it was just a rollercoaster we never really expected but never really second-guessed or doubted ourselves. We just played every game like it’s out last. To do it with that group of guys after the season we’d had the year before, and the number of new debutants we’d had and where people had expected us to be - it was pretty special.”
2018 saw the end of a remarkable feat for Turner, who for his first four NEAFL seasons was the main ruckman for the winner of the NEAFL MVP award that year.
Turner won the hit-outs for Matt Payne (Aspley, 2014 and 2016), Tom Young (Uni, 2015) and Jordan Keras (2018), an anomaly that he’s not shy to remind his former teammates about.
The Sharks set their goal for 2019 to go back-to-back, and with a watertight grip on second spot in the last week of regular matches it’s well within reach for the Sharks, making for an excitingly different atmosphere at Fankhauser Reserve.
“We’ve had a pretty good run, it’s felt a lot longer this year, a lot tougher, every game’s felt different from last year. Purely for the fact that every time we turn the corner another team is trying to knock us off as you expect after winning the flag last year,” Turner said.
Five years and 100 games on from his NEAFL debut, Jed Turner still has a drive for success at Southport but feels that the evolution of his own personal life has seen his desire for success evolve in the midst of his other endeavours.
Life’s changed for me a fair bit for me since then (2014),” he said.
“I’ve moved out of home, I’m married, I have a business, so my responsibilities have changed drastically, so it is a juggling act for me."
Turner’s life he admits can become draining, but the off-field rewards he’s able to reap make it all worth it.
“I definitely do have a lot of blokes I keep in touch with from Uni and Aspley,” he said.
“You build such great relationships with blokes, and become such great mates. It’s always something I’ll look back on and cherish. As much as you want to kill them when you’re playing against them, you can’t wait to shake their hand and have a beer with them afterwards and chat, see how life is.”
With his days typically starting at 4am for work, and ending late that evening after training most days, Turner believes his commitment to the club is well-rewarded in being able to repay and thank stalwarts of Southport with on-field success.
As for his own personal achievement of 100 games, Turner says a bit of reflection this week has made him realise how far he’s come.
“I never really thought of it. I always saw people get their 100th and stuff and thought, ‘oh that’s pretty cool’ but never thought it was that big of a deal,” he said.
"It was never something that played on my mind as a big accomplishment or something I wanted to achieve. But over the last couple of days thinking of it, having it in the back of my mind, it is something that I am proud of.
“I never really went too far with basketball, but with footy - to be able to play at such a high level is such an enjoyable thing, you can take it for granted sometimes. Most weekends you jump on a plane to play footy somewhere with 22 of your best mates. It’s something that after a few years just becomes the normal.
“When you think about it you go ‘wow, it’s pretty special to be able to that.’ To be able to do it for as long as I have and to as much success as I have, it something that I am really proud of.”
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