Ordinarily, for a young, aspiring league footballer, a year in which you have been selected as one of the best underage players in the country would be one to celebrate.
January saw Luke Partington travel to the US as part of the NAB AFL Academy, for a 10-day training camp, alongside other draft hopefuls and it seemed that his year would be one that would change his life for the better, in his quest to reach AFL level.
But for the 18-year-old, the year 2015 has been all about resilience in the face of adversity.
Back in February, Luke’s father, Brian was tragically killed in a rockfall accident at the Olympic Dam mine in central South Australia. Brian, a well-loved member of the local community, was a life member of the Olympic Dam football club, where he played 109 games, including four premierships.
Naturally, it took a few weeks for Luke to grieve with his family and get himself motivated again, after the loss of his father, but refusing to give up on his dream, he set about pursuing the AFL career that his parents had sacrificed so much for.
For Partington, his footballing journey began with Tumby Bay, and as his talent emerged, he was initially tied to the Port Adelaide Magpies through their junior academy, playing for their under 16 side in 2013, while progressing to the under 18s last year. However, a change to the SANFL zoning rules meant that his football would be played at Norwood in 2015.
Beginning the 2015 season in the Redlegs’ reserves side, Partington, who likens his game to that of Luke Ball and Lachie Neale, played three games early in the season, appearing among the best players against Port Adelaide in round four. However, his next challenge would be the under 18 championships held across seven weeks from late May until early July.
Partington, named as vice-captain, and donning the number 12 guernsey for South Australia, played in all six matches, and was arguably the Croweaters’ best performer, averaging 24 disposals per game, with a best performance of 30 disposals, six tackles, and six inside 50s coming against Vic Country on June 14.
Across the championships, the 182 centimetre Partington won the majority of his disposals as an outside midfielder, with 70% as uncontested, which made his disposal efficiency of 67% a little below par. He also averaged four clearances and three tackles per game, and kicked three goals, which was enough to see him selected as a starting midfielder in the under 18 All-Australian team.
Upon returning to Norwood, Partington finally got his chance in the senior side with the Redlegs, making his league debut in round 13 against his former junior side in the Port Adelaide Magpies. He impressed on debut, collecting 16 disposals, 12 of which were effective, with five clearances.
Impressively for the youngster, Partington maintained his place in the seniors for the remainder of the season, bar round 19 where he was selected in the Norwood reserves side against the Eagles. He handled his demotion terrifically, booting two goals, while being named in Norwood’s best, ensuring a swift recall to the seniors for the do-or-die elimination final against Central District.
Despite Norwood’s 44-point defeat at the hands of the Bulldogs’, ending hopes of a fourth-successive premiership for the Redlegs, Partington was far from disgraced, collecting 16 touches and three clearances, with 62% of his disposals hitting the target.
Across his six senior matches with the Redlegs this year, Partington averaged a tick under 17 disposals at 66% efficiency, three clearances and two tackles per game, with a best of 20 disposals, six clearances, four tackles and a goal against South Adelaide in round 15.
For good measure, he made his first appearance for the Norwood under 18s side in its preliminary final against North Adelaide on Saturday, and the Redlegs 36-point win will mean that he should play in the grand final decider against the Eagles this Sunday.
There is no doubt that 2015 has been the most challenging year in Luke Partington’s life so far, but his father would be undoubtedly proud of his sons achievements as he endeavours to achieve his goal in reaching the AFL. Come November 24 and national draft day, there will be many people in Tumby Bay and the Olympic Dam community that will be hoping that young Luke gets his chance to continue his father’s legacy and becomes a drafted AFL player.