AFTER a storied AFL, VFL and SANFL career Jeremy Clayton is excited to play for his hometown club for the second time in almost 20 years on Saturday.
Clayton said his most recent Wimmera league game, other than a one-off appearance for the Warrack Eagles in 2014, would have been been in 1998.
“It’s been a long time between drinks so I’m really excited,” he said.
“Something I’ve always wanted to do was come home and play – there is no better opportunity than in round one against the Southern Mallee Giants.”
Clayton played VFL for the North Ballarat Roosters and Port Melbourne before being-rookie listed by North Melbourne ahead of the 2003 AFL season.
He played eight games for the club over two seasons and then thrived playing in the South Australian National Football League for Port Adelaide.
During a 127-game career at the club over an eight-season period he won the club’s best and fairest award five times as well as the league’s top honour in 2005.
The 37-year-old said he wanted to use his top-level experience to help the developing side.
“I went home to train a couple of weeks ago and there was so many young players on the track,” he said.
“It’s a really exciting young team and I can’t wait to be involved.”
He has not played a game for almost 18 months but said he had knew he could still have an impact after completing a full pre-season with Port Districts Football Club, the club he coached for the past three seasons.
“It was really good fun to play a practice game with the club a couple of weeks ago and I pulled up alright from that,” he said.
“I’ve been doing a fair bit to get my body footy hardened again and I just want to help out in any way that I can.”
Clayton was looking forward to the opportunity to once again run around on Anzac Park.
“Playing in front of some of my family again will be special, especially my grandma” he said.
“That’s another huge reason why I’m looking forward to returning.
“She wouldn’t have seen me play in a long time other than on television – she’s mid-80s now so there are only going to be a few more opportunities.”
Clayton will travel from his home in South Australia for the game and said he hoped to play a handful of games over the course of the season but that it would depend on his shift work.
“It’s hard to know how the side will go this season because they’ve only played one practice match against Sebastopol,” he said.
“I’m just looking forward to coming home to play in front of a home crowd.
“It’s going to be a pretty huge game against the Giants.”