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Championship Focus for Newley as he Embraces Melbourne Life

Written for nbl.com.au by Chris Pike

Brad Newley wasn’t expecting to need to find a new professional home at this point in his career, but he couldn’t be happier to land at Melbourne United and he'd love nothing more than to win that elusive NBL championship.

Having spent almost a decade playing overseas in Greece, Turkey, Lithuania and Spain, Newley returned home to Australia in 2016. Now a husband to Brigid and a father he dedicated himself to helping the Sydney Kings reclaim their place as an NBL powerhouse.

He was a cornerstone of the team for the past five seasons including being a key cog in the team that reached the Grand Final in 2020.

With life set up for himself and his family in Sydney, Newley didn’t envision at 37 years of age needing to find a new home, but things panned out how they did and there's no hard feelings with the Kings.

Now 15 games into the season having joined United, Newley has found his groove in the league-leading team. While it's not easy being separated from his family, he couldn’t be happier with how it's panned out.

"It's been a lot of fun for me, but it comes with challenges and I'm living away from my family at the moment because they've stayed up in Sydney," Newley said.

"That's probably one of the challenges I'm having to deal with, but the flipside is it gives me more time to focus on what I need to do and my role here with Melbourne. I'm doing all I can to do what I need to provide the best I can for the club. 

"It has been a good change for me personally and I'm enjoying the culture that we have here in Melbourne. That's been built over a period of time and a lot of clubs are still working on those kind of things, and it does take time. 

"I felt like in Sydney we started to get a bit of that established and they're building a new team which they are starting to have some success with. But coming here has been good and I feel like I'm one of the guys who has been here a while knowing so many guys on the staff and the team."

All Newley wanted to do was to continue his career in the NBL. Looking back to when he was a rookie beginning in 2004 at the Townsville Crocodiles, to make a successful professional career a lot of the gun Australian players looked the Europe like Newley did.

However, the league is in a totally different place now and Newley has been delighted to be part of the past five years, and was anything but ready to retire once he and the Kings parted ways.

He wasn’t sure what the next step was but to have landed with Melbourne has been the best possible outcome. Now all his attention is on trying to be part of a championship for the first time in his career.

"I guess when I was a lot younger in my career I played in Europe for almost 10 years so I know how to live away from home, but when we came back to Australia, I'd established my family," Newley said.

"Things will be a bit easier with things starting to open up, but the one thing I miss is taking my kids to school and picking them, and they're into sport now and I'm missing those moments. 

"But at the same time, my wife understands that you're quite a long time retired so I want to make the most of this opportunity here in Melbourne and that's to win a championship. 

"I don’t want to take anything for granted right now, I just want to put my best foot forward and if that means a little bit of a setback on the family side of things, then if the end result is winning a title then that's part of the process."

The ironic thing is that even though he's another year older and playing a few less minutes with Melbourne this season than he did in Sydney, Newley feels in better physical condition and better able to provide what's asked of him.

When he first spoke about coming to United, coach Dean Vickerman had a clearly defined role in mind for Newley and he's embraced it ever since.

"The initial conversation with Melbourne was that they just wanted me to be an energy guy to fill that wing position and guard the two men if needed and switch onto the threes and four as well," he said.

"I put that on myself in the off-season to come in in pretty good shape because that helps you being able to defend. I felt last year I kind of wasn’t in the shape that I am this year physically and the way I'm moving. 

"The role they gave me here is one where I really just have to focus on those little jobs and doing things like getting in between the gaps because we have some really good scorers on this team. 

"If I can just provide another option whether it's through hard running and cutting, or getting on the glass, that's the job I've been given. I've played basketball a long time and you pick up little things as you grow and mature so just complementing those guys is where I'm at my best. If I can do anything extra then that's just a bonus."

Newley might not have chosen to leave the Kings after last season if it was left up to him having been proud of helping to build up the culture over the previous five years. But now that he's settled at United, he's also not in the mood to reflect or hold a grudge.

In fact, there's no grudge there to be held. He respects the Kings for being honest with him that while they felt he could still contribute, they were heading in another direction. All that meant for him was, that he had to find a new home to continue his career at.

"Now that I am where I am in Melbourne, I don’t want to look back on things ending in Sydney too much, but I think I helped to establish a culture which when I started in Sydney it was basically from scratch," Newley said. 

"We didn’t make the playoffs when I first started and we built ourselves into a contender, and it was nice to be part of the good times there and you can see what they are building towards with the younger group coming through. 

"I guess the conversation was around them believing I could still play, but just not a role there for me. So knowing they thought I could still play was nice and ideally I probably would have stayed, but there was a period for about a month where I didn’t know what I was going to do. 

"I was busy with my agent figuring out my next move and my wife and family understood that to keep playing I'd have to leave Sydney. So credit to Brigid for allowing me to do what's best for the family and that's to continue to play basketball even if that meant I had to leave the family home.

"I was lucky that she let me do that and I got the call from coach Vickerman when I was sitting at home during lockdown. He asked what I was doing and I told him I was ready to play, and down the highway I came. Here I am with Melbourne United and really enjoying it."

Helping Newley embrace his new home in Melbourne is the team that he's part of.

He has a role as one of the veterans alongside David Barlow who can plug plenty of gaps, but it's a team with no obvious weakness and depth in all areas.

You have the bigs Jo Lual-Acuil and Ariel Hukporti, power forwards Jack White and Mason Peatling, wings of Caleb Agada supported by Newley and Barlow, and then a back court of Matthew Dellavedova, Shea Ili and Chris Goulding.

Newley loves knowing he has a clear job as part of the team, but it's a bit early to call it the best team he's been part of just yet.

"I think the team in Sydney when we went to the Grand Final that year, that was a pretty loaded side. We probably played a different style to what we play here in Melbourne, but that was a really good team as well and we had some really good moments there," Newley said.

"This team is probably your more traditional team I guess where everyone has their set positions and roles, and we play more a traditional style of basketball. I think the reason we are having success is the defensive end and basically if you're not going to defend, you're not going to get out there.

"We are only halfway through the season and we are in a good spot, but I think Dean and even the players know the standard we need to maintain to stay where we're at. Constantly revisiting the values we have here is important and that makes the team what it is. 

"I don’t know if adding anything would help in any way, but I'm not privy to those conversations. I just rock up every day to do my job and play the games on the weekend."

Newley doesn’t know how long he has left to play basketball professionally for, but it's all he has ever known since starting at the Crocs back in 2004.

The key to him still getting the most of his career is staying in the moment and giving it everything. So he's not thinking too much about what will come next, but he does know the kind of direction he'd like to head in when the time does come.

"This is all I've known basically from being a teenager. I've been fortunate enough where there was a phase there where it was hard to do to be a full-time professional basketballer in Australia. We are so lucky now with the way the league has evolved is that the guys are professional and can do well," Newley said.

"I was very lucky that I went overseas at a young age and I hang my hat on that I've been a professional basketball player from Australia for almost 20 years. I've been lucky enough to have got something under me so that when I finish it won't be desperate measures. 

"I started doing a little bit of work in the private schools of Sydney as a mentor which was one of the hardest things about leaving Sydney after establishing that. Working as a mentor for younger players and helping them transition into pros is a space I'd like to explore. It's just what I know. 

"I feel like I have enough runs on the board to be able to pass on my knowledge in some sort of way so that mentoring and coaching space is something I'd like to do. 

"My wife will also start work soon so I might be a house dad for a while and that doesn’t sound too bad. I'm just looking at some things now to figure it all out and it's kind of on my mind, but not at the very front of it considering I'm still focusing on my playing career."

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