By Tyler Lewis
Jack Toner and determination are synonymous.
The youngster from Narre Warren and the Dandenong Stingrays has been among the accomplishments from a very young age and will stop at nothing until he reaches his dream.
Toner – like many – begun as a young kid in the backyard before pulling on the black and white stripes at Narre Warren where his dad is a club icon.
“I started my juniors at seven years old right through to under-12s at Narre Warren,” he said.
“We won a flag in 11s and 12s, and I moved off to East Brighton and played in the interleague teams in that time and played at the Victorian team when I was at Narre.
“I had a pretty good junior career, a few accolades I am proud of.
“Dad’s been huge for me, from a young age he had me out in the backyard, and we were just training my craft as they say, having a kick.
“Even little things like ‘If you drop this mark Narre will lose the premiership this year’ and I wouldn’t want to drop the mark.
“All the little things like that have held me in good stead – I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for me.”
Toner moved into the Associated Public Schools (APS) system when he pulled on the famous Haileybury jumper during his time at school, an experience that has boosted his chances come the pointy end of the year, earning the praise and time of AFL legend Matthew Lloyd.
“Last year I was playing school footy for Haileybury so I was in the APS system and when I was available I was playing at Dandenong or Narre Warren,” he said.
“The academics definitely are prioritised a lot more but the school footy is definitely an integral part of the school.
“A lot of money is put towards it – we all have a GPS in our jumpers and heaps of staff.
“My best achievement was winning the flag with Haileybury last year and that was one of the best times on a footy field – we had 10 games with a great group of mates and great coaching staff.
“We would just do anything for each other and when football is like that it is just seriously enjoyable.
“And Lloydy was awesome for me, he did a lot of work with me one-on-one on Tuesday mornings, we would work on midfield craft.
“A guy that experienced being able to teach a bunch of 17, 18-year-old kids is invaluable.”
Graduating from Haileybury College a year before his draft, Toner has had the year to set up his life outside of football and learn from his classmates who went it onto an AFL list in 2019.
“I finished school, graduated last year as a 17-year-old and this year have been working at my dad’s business and doing a Uni degree part time,” he said.
“I am at Deakin but I am just doing it online so, doing Bachelor of Business and Sport Management, and working part time for my dad’s plumbing business in an admin role.
“I am pretty close mates with Max King from St Kilda, Liam Stocker (Carlton) and even Matt Cottrell who got picked up in summer to Carlton.
“Whenever I can I like to catch up with those boys, or shoot them a message and ask them ‘how did you handle this and what are some things that I should be trying to put forward to try and put my name in lights.”
Sitting tight waiting for his opportunity, Toner is strong-minded and is passionate about achieving his dreams, idolising some of the sports best – he is open to expressing his talent whatever it takes to get the ultimate individual goal if it doesn’t go to plan after his brilliant year at Dandenong.
“I love watching Jack Billings from St Kilda and I love the tenacity of Trent Cotchin, they both go about their footy the way somewhere down the track I would love to be like,” he said.
“I have been consistent across the board, pretty proud of my year thus far and hopefully can keep going deep into the finals and showcase what I can bring to the table.
“I think sometimes you have to be determined each quarter to get the best out of yourself, and you can’t just rest and say ‘I have had a good quarter that quarter’.
“You have to drive and keep working into the next because it is never enough – you can never be doing too well to not go for more possessions or not keep working on your game.
“I’m never satisfied until the end result come November.
“I would definitely keep my local club as Narre, but I would explore all options – VFL or NEAFL, I will give myself the best chance, and stay determined until I get what I want.”