Sam Newman is a former Australian rules footballer who played for the Geelong Football Club in the Victorian Football League (VFL).
Newman, nicknamed “Sam,” was a prodigiously talented ruckman that took over for Graham “Polly” Farmer at Geelong. He was an outstanding ruckman, just as Farmer was, and he used his body to get the best stance in ruck contests. Newman was also a master of creative handball, much like Farmer. In 1964, he made his VFL debut at the age of 22 and four years later, despite suffering a severe kidney injury the previous year. In 1969, he was selected to the All Australian team after the Adelaide carnival.
He went from ruck to center half-forward late in his career after persistent ankle injuries plagued him. He hung up his boots in 1980 after 300 VFL games and 110 goals. His playing days, which have been both popular and controversial at times, speaks for themselves. In 17 seasons, all with the Geelong Football Club, he was selected eight times to represent Victoria in state of origin competition and was named an All-Australian.
Newman’s career highlights include being a two-time recipient of the Carji Greeves Medal and a two-time winner of the National Football Carnival Championship. He was also inducted into both the Geelong Hall of Fame and the Australian Football Hall of Fame.
After his retirement, Newman became a well-known and frequently contentious media personality, making his debut as a television football pundit on World of Sport before moving to the Footy Show. ‘Sam’ Newman was chosen for the Geelong team of the twentieth century in 2001.
Newman made his senior debut against Fitzroy at Brunswick Street Oval in Round 3 of the 1964 VFL season, following five appearances for Geelong’s reserves team at the end of the 1963 season. After suffering a serious injury in the first semifinal against Collingwood in 1967, Newman was forced to undergo surgery to have a portion of his kidney removed. During the 1969 season, he was also named to the All-Australian team.
Newman’s final season as a VFL footballer was in 1980. In the fourth round of the AFL season against North Melbourne at Arden Street Oval, Newman kicked five goals while playing as a center half-forward, with four of those goals coming in the final quarter to help his team to a convincing 37-point victory. After the game, Geelong coach Bill Goggin had this to say about his former teammate: “He is a tremendous source of inspiration for the players. They have told me that just having him out there with them provides a boost to everyone’s morale.”
In the Round 20 match against Collingwood at Kardinia Park, Newman became the 300th senior VFL player. Even though he had a quiet game, the Cats commemorated the occasion with an 18-point victory.
Following his retirement in 1981, Newman worked as a sports commentator for radio station 3AW before joining Channel Seven’s World of Sport program. He stayed for seven years before retiring again. His most prominent and criticized role is being the co-host of Channel Nine’s award-winning The Footy Show, which has garnered widespread praise and scorn. His shenanigans are nothing short of legendary, and he will be remembered for them forever.
His most controversial incidents on The Footy Show include:
- The use of blackface to imitate iconic Indigenous AFL footballer Nicky Winmar in 1999, after Winmar failed to appear for a scheduled appearance on the program.
- Shane Crawford yanked his trousers down live on-air in 2001, in front of a studio audience.
- During an appearance on The Footy Show, Newman surprised David Schwarz by slapping him in the face with a pie, to which Schwarz responded by shoving Newman to the ground.
- In 2008, in response to how journalist Caroline Wilson was dressed on Footy Classified, a lingerie-clad mannequin with Wilson’s face attached to it was groped. Following the incident, the Nine Network suspended Newman’s contract.
- After five female directors of AFL clubs made complaints about Newman’s mannequin comedy routine, Newman labeled them as “liars and hypocrites,” prompting one of those directors, Susan Alberti, to file a $220,000 lawsuit against the network
Despite the fact that George Floyd died due to police brutality, Newman stated in a podcast that Floyd had an extensive criminal record and thus was a “piece of sh*t.” Not long after, Newman reached a mutually acceptable agreement with the Nine Network to resign from the network in June 2020.
As well as providing ruck coaching to several AFL players, Newman has previously worked as an assistant ruck coach for the Melbourne Football Club. He has also offered ruck coaching to many AFL players including my father Glenn McLean.