ARARAT has always played an important role in Scott Turner’s life.
It’s where the former Richmond player first kicked and handballed a football and fell in love with the game.
“I started at Ararat with the Warriors in the junior association when I was about six and then went into the Ararat juniors where I clocked up about 140 games I think. So I certainly enjoyed my footy as a child,” he said.
Turner’s story is somewhat of a familiar one for country AFL players – he was scouted by Collingwood before he was 18 but didn’t enjoy the city change.
“When I was 16, the Ararat area was in the Collingwood zone so I signed up with Collingwood when I was about 16 to play in some squads there,” he said.
“I wasn’t a big fan of Collingwood – back in those days I was a Geelong supporter. It was late ’86-’87 and I did a pre-season with them but I just didn’t enjoy the city life. I came back to Ararat to play seniors and when I turned 18, Melbourne signed me up.”
Turner spent a couple of seasons at Melbourne, playing in the reserves and under-19s but it was a back injury that ended his time with the club.
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“I played some games for Melbourne in the pre-season cup, which we won,” he said. “Then we played a game overseas and that was where I hurt my back. After that, Melbourne delisted me. After that I came back and played with Ararat and then Richmond spotted me in 1989 and they recruited me in 1990.”
This time, Turner was more prepared for the lifestyle change and it was at the Tigers that he thrived as a full-back.
“I was a bit older and mature and had some mates down in Melbourne,” he said.
“I ended up meeting my wife Kerri in 1990 and she was in Melbourne studying.”
Turner made an immediate impact for Richmond in the 1991 season, playing every game and being named best first-year player at the club.
His early years at Richmond were tough with limited on-field success. That was until 1995 where the side made a memorable run to the preliminary final.
Turner was pivotal in helping the Tigers make the preliminary final after a stint up forward in the semi-final victory against Essendon at the MCG.
“I was in the back line for most of the first half and then they put me forward and I kicked a couple of goals,” he said.
“It was quite exciting on a nice spring day, it couldn’t get any better. You go and watch a game of football now and it gives you goosebumps.”
The Tigers were down by five goals at half-time before Turner helped his side earn a preliminary final against the club he supported growing up – Geelong.
“We lost to Geelong and we were one week away from the grand final,” he said.
Throughout his career as a full back, Turner lined up against some of the best full forwards the AFL has seen.
“I played in a great decade of full forwards with Gary Ablett, Jason Dunstall, John Longmire, Wayne Carey, Tony Lockett … the list goes on,” he said.
“I rate Ablett the best. He was so freakish and strong. Dunstall and Lockett would round out the top three but what was up the ground kicking it to them was pretty special, too.”
In terms of teammates, Turner said players such as Matthew Knights, Wayne Campbell and Matthew Richardson were up there with the best.
“We had some great players at Richmond – we just didn’t have all of them at the same time,” he said.
During the 1995 season Turner started to have issues with his knee that would plague the remainder of his career.
I rate Gary Ablett the best. He was so freakish and strong. Dunstall and Lockett would round out the top three but what was up the ground kicking it to them was pretty special, too.- Scott Turner
“That was when my knee injury started to kick in,” he said. “I had jabs most games in 1995 to get me through and then I just had operation after operation. I had a cyst under the kneecap and nothing could fix it so I had to retire after 1999.”
Turner retired at 29 after playing 144 games and kicking 33 goals for the Tigers.
Turner returned to the MCG last season to watch his former side win its first premiership in 37 years.
“I had an old saying that I barrack for Richmond during the year and Geelong in the finals, but that’s changed now,” he said.
“All the past players sat together and it was an amazing spot to watch and I never thought it would happen.”
After retiring mid-season during 1999, it didn’t take long for a country team to snap up Turner.
“After I retired around mid-year in 1990, Warrnambool were straight onto me to see what I was up to,” he said.
“Me and the wife were always keen to get back to a big country town. We ended up down there for a few years. I coached three years there and we won a couple flags and I played there in 2001 and 2002 as well in those flags.”
After that, Turner returned to his hometown and coached the senior Rats side.
“We’ve been back in Ararat for 11 or 12 years now,” he said. “I always wanted to come back here and coach and try to win a flag here, but obviously didn’t succeed in that. I’m back with mates and family and seeing the young fella, Paddy, coming through the seniors now. It’s such a relaxed environment.”
Turner hasn’t been afraid to pull on the Rats jumper the past few seasons, but said now his playing days were done.
“I played a few games for Ararat when I came back but the body has had enough,” he said.
“Playing back on Alexandra Oval in front of family and mates was special. Even the last few years I’ve played a few games in the reserves filling out and it’s just enjoyable to help out the young guys. You are more or less coaching while you’re out on the ground.
“I broke my foot last year so that was enough for me. I loved running around if the body was able to but I thought that was enough.”
After a run at state politics in 2014, Turner and his wife now own the Ararat Early Learning Centre.
“I had a phone call from Hugh Delahunty, who I have known through football for a long time, to put my hand up for the National Party – and I did,” he said. “That was a few months of driving around the countryside, kissing babies and shaking hands as they say. It opened my eyes up a bit but in the end it wasn’t me. I’m happy to sit back now and watch it all unfold.”
Turner said he was enjoying life around the Ararat Football Netball Club, giving back to the club that helped forge his memorable AFL career.
“My young fella is playing in the seniors now and the coach Shane Fisher has come through the ranks and the team is more or less full of locals,” he said.
“Fisher is coaching them well and it’s really exciting for the town with the reserves and juniors going well too. We have one of the best grounds and it’s taken a while to get there, but we are in a good place.”