Meet the Australian half-back hoping to inspire a Challenge Cup upset

Drew Darbyshire
Jack Payne Wests Warriors 2023

Photo: Wests Warriors

Having arrived in London from Australia via France, Jack Payne is hoping to orchestrate one of the biggest Challenge Cup upsets in history this weekend.

Southern Conference League champions Wests Warriors travel to seven-time winners Widnes in the third round on Saturday.

The Warriors were initially draw at home. However, the lure of the big occasion prompted its players to volunteer £140 each in travel costs to secure a switch to Widnes’ DCBL Stadium.

The Acton-based community club play purely out of love for the game. Their players have ‘normal’ day-to-day jobs away from the rugby field.

Their talismanic half-back Payne won’t be fazed by the prospect of facing Widnes, having come through the NRL junior ranks at St George Illawarra Dragons.

Payne also played in an Under-20s semi-final against the North Queensland Cowboys at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane.

He travelled to London where he met Warriors’ Kiwi coach Kim Parkinson after enjoying a spell in France with Avignon. Payne now combines playing for Wests with his job as a primary school teacher in Willesden.

“A lot of us are ex-pats so Wests is like a family away from family,” Payne said. “That’s what I like about it.

“Our goal was to get to round three and we’re stoked to get the chance to go and play in such a big stadium against a team with such a massive history as Widnes.

“Obviously it’s going to be tough but we’re going to go out there and give it 100%.

“If can do ourselves proud hopefully it will raise some awareness and continue to help us grow the club’s base.”

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Jack Payne and Wests Warriors up for the cup

The Warriors were founded as a Nines team in 2013. Their Wests name combines a nod to their west London origins and the Auckland Warriors. The latter being the favourite club of one of Wests’ co-founders and current head coach Parkinson.

“Getting drawn against Widnes was exactly what we hoped for,” said Parkinson, a proud Kiwi. “But our facilities aren’t up to the right standard to host a Championship club so it was a pretty easy decision to switch.

“We agreed to go up the night before and it will all come out of the players’ pockets. But it is going to be worth it for the experience of playing against such a well-known club in a big stadium.”

The draws for the fourth and fifth rounds will be held on Wednesday, March 15, at Millom ARLFC.

Millom are celebrating their 150th anniversary and thought to be the world’s oldest amateur rugby league club.

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