Michael Newton may have taken one of the AFL’s legendary marks, but these days he’s kicking goals as a Legendairy farmer.
The former Melbourne Demons player is back home on the family dairy farm in north east Victoria, more than a decade after being drafted to the big league.
Playing for Melbourne and the South Australian National Football League (SANFL) club Norwood from 2004 to 2015, the man universally known as “Juice”, cemented his place in football folklore with a spectacular grab that earned him the 2007 AFL Mark of the Year.
However, both feet are well and truly back on solid ground since returning to the picturesque 800 hectare family farm on the banks of the Ovens River at Whorouly, near Myrtleford.
Towering red gums dominate the river flats, which can grow enough grass to keep the farm’s 600 Holsteins in prime condition.
“It’s such beautiful country,” Michael said.
“When I bring mates up here, they just can’t believe how nice it is. It’s such a brilliant part of the world.” It’s land that has been farmed by his family for four generations – and it’s not hard to see why Michael wants to keep that tradition going.
But that family link – his father Rod and uncle Wayne manage the business and cousins Josh and Andy work alongside Michael performing day-to-day tasks – doesn’t mean it’s an easy ride for Michael who can still cop a spray from his father that would do justice to an AFL coach.
“Dad likes things to run perfectly and when they don’t you get told about it,” he said.
“To have someone who is such a perfectionist to look up to, it helps you stay on the right pathway. Dad always says if you are going to do something, you may as well do it right.”
The 29-year-old said that having lived his dream of playing in the big league, he can now take the lessons he has learnt from being a professional athlete to the next stage of his career.
“I moved to Melbourne at 17 and from that point on, every decision I made, I’d question how it was going to affect my footy, so I suppose once you’ve been in that professional environment it’s hard not to be professional at what you do,” Michael said.
“In footy, if you’re good but stay with the same game-plan, everybody is going to move past you. I guess it’s the same with the dairy industry, if you don’t keep up with the modern practices, you’re going to get run over.”
When he’s not helping to develop the farm business, Michael is a key forward for the Wangaratta Magpies in the famous Ovens and Murray league.
His decision to play for the Magpies flew in the face of a strong family connection with bitter rivals Wangaratta Rovers, where his cousin currently plays and his father was a handy forward in the early 1980s.
But it was the lure of playing with Magpie mates that saw “Juice” put on the black and white stripes, despite more lucrative offers from other teams.
While it’s all a world away from the roar of the MCG, it seems Michael has rewritten Newton’s law of gravity to prove that what goes up, can keep on flying high.
“The lifestyle up here on the farm is great and it works well with footy,” he said.
“You’d be hard pressed not to enjoy working here.”