Congratulations to Tom Ayton who will play his 100th NEAFL game this Saturday. Tom is a highly respected member of the Sydney University Australian National Football Club and has added great value to the organisation in many ways.
Ayton exemplifies what it means to be a “student-athlete” at Sydney University. He has led the NEAFL team on numerous occasions as a Vice Captain and stand in Captain, has been selected to play NEAFL representative football and is a USYD Blue recipient. Perhaps the most impressive feat is that he has achieved all of this while studying to be a doctor.
Ayton grew up in Western Australia, playing senior football for Claremont in the Western Australian Football League (WAFL), before joining SUANFC. He has played an extremely important role in the development of the Sydney Uni NEAFL program as the High Performance Manager since his arrival in Sydney in 2013. Along with former NEAFL head coach Daniel Gilmore, Tom has been integral in the recruitment of many players.
“Tom has been pivotal in recruiting elite interstate talent through his personal networks across the country, which has kept us in the NEAFL competition… In recent years, he has also been a catalyst in recruiting local talent from the Sydney region and has played a big part in their development,” current Coach Tom Morrison said.
Talking to some of his teammates and friends it is clear to see why Tom has become such a valuable member of the club. Not only does he work hard both on and off the field he is also a man of great character. He leads by example and has been at the forefront of building a great club culture based on high standards and camaraderie.
Fellow teammate and current NEAFL captain, Lewis Stevenson, was one of the players who came to Sydney Uni as a result of his connection with Ayton. “Ayts and I have been mates for around ten years so it was great to get the opportunity to play with him again. There aren’t many people around that show more genuine care for how our players develop not only on-field, but also off-field. He puts countless hours in behind the scenes and is definitely one of the spiritual leaders at the club. He is someone who you always want to have around.”
“It’s really exciting to be part of his milestone. It will definitely give the boys added motivation this weekend,” Stevenson said.
Another current NEAFL member, Tom Young, reiterated Stevenson’s comments, saying, “Squirrel (as Ayton is affectionately known by some) is honestly one of the best humans you will ever meet. The work he does behind the scenes is never known, but always recognised by those close to him. We all love him here.”
Morrison, who also came to the club due to his connection with Ayton, had only great things to say about the person he believes is a great role. “I am extremely lucky to be one of a small group of people who are aware of the extent of his impact in our Program and Club”
“He is always the first bloke to make new players and staff feel welcome. He is a mentor to many and an extremely hard worker. He is someone who never misses a session and always drives the standards regardless of how hard his day has been. It is quite remarkable what he has been able to achieve.”
“Tom is a very loyal friend, has a great sense of humour and is brave enough to have uncomfortable conversations when others will not. Tom sees the big picture of SUANFC and respects all members regardless of their playing ability or role. In 10 years’ time we will look back and see him as a person who kept our NEAFL program alive, provided local talent with opportunities to play elite level football in Sydney and someone that we have all learnt from.”
“His legacy will be unquestionable and, to those of us who were here to see all the work he has done behind the scenes, he will be one of most influential and significant Club members of all time,” Morrison added.
The final words should come from the man himself and true to form, Ayton was typically gracious when asked to comment. “It’s been a really enjoyable experience being involved with the club. I’m grateful this opportunity has allowed me to keep playing footy while I’m studying. The club has supported me a lot throughout my degree. ”
He joined the program well before the club was as successful as it is now. “To see the growth in the club and to get to the point where we have played in the preliminary finals the past couple of years has been great, “he added.
“We have to keep training hard to match it with the AFL calibre teams, but we are really looking forward to seeing how far we can go this year.”