EL­IZA SEWELL

Sunday Herald Sun - - Sport -

MITCH Robin­son needed to find a hobby. He had foot­ball and a lov­ing fam­ily, but the Bris­bane Lions thought there was room for more in his life. So he be­came a gamer.

“I used to love skate­board­ing and rid­ing mo­tor­bikes and we can’t do that with foot­ball, so I didn’t have a hobby,” Robin­son told the Sun­day Her­ald Sun.

“It was a bit con­cern­ing for them, so it’s ac­tu­ally good I’ve found this.

“It takes your mind off a lot of things; you need to have some­thing out­side of footy.”

The un­com­pro­mis­ing Lion’s game of choice is Fort­nite, and it’s turned into a bit more than a di­ver­sion.

In De­cem­ber he was signed by Chiefs Es­ports Club and dur­ing the Aus­tralia Day week­end he and hun­dreds of other gamers will fea­ture at the Aus­tralian Open’s Fort­nite Sum­mer Smash tour­na­ment.

“I was ac­tu­ally re­ally good at it,” Robin­son said.

“It has just been re­ally en­joy­able to have some­thing to re­lax me.”

Apart from be­ing a digi whiz, Robin­son has also set up a barber’s chair in his gam­ing room and now cuts his Lions team­mates’ hair.

Now in his 11th AFL sea­son and fifth with Bris­bane, Robin­son is a dif­fer­ent per­son to the 25-year-old who was delisted by Carl­ton in 2014.

“He was al­ways con­sid­ered the hard nut. No one would take him se­ri­ously in foot­ball be­cause he was al­ways get­ting into trou­ble,” Robin­son’s fi­ancee Emma MacNeill said.

“But at the Lions he’s re­ally blos­somed into a bit of a se­nior (fig­ure). He’s taken the young fel­las un­der his wing. He’s al­ways some­one peo­ple can turn to.

“That’s some­thing that I’ve ad­mired … he would give the shirt off his back if some­one needed it.’’

Robin­son, who signed a one-year deal af­ter 19 games in 2018, met MacNeill through Face­book in 2011 and they have two chil­dren — Chance (four) and Charli (two).

Robin­son says his part­ner de­serves credit for his trans­for­ma­tion.

“When I got delisted by Carl­ton, she re­ally put it all in per­spec­tive,” Robin­son said.

“I’ve got a fam­ily to pro­vide for. We had a small child at the time, so it re­ally hit home that I might not have a job in the AFL af­ter that.

“I’ve been jour­nalling ev­ery­thing since about my sec­ond or third year in footy, I al­ways go back and look through. It’s so good to read to see where your head’s at. It’s pretty ex­cit­ing to see where I’ve come from.”

MacNeill, a proud Martu woman from the Western Desert, is a role model for the Lions AFLW play­ers and a sur­ro­gate mother to the younger AFL boys.

“It’s an open house re­ally,” Robin­son says of their fam­ily home.

“(The play­ers) usu­ally rock up unan­nounced, hang out with the kids and chill out, have a feed and get a hair­cut if they want.”

“We’ve been raised in a way to re­spect ev­ery­one and treat ev­ery­one like fam­ily,” MacNeill says.

“My chil­dren call all of the boys at the club Gugga, which means un­cle.”

MacNeill, a premier­ship-win­ning ruck for QWAFL side Wil­ston Grange, is also a pain­ter and her work adorns walls, foot­balls, jumpers and boots.

Her most re­cent cre­ation was dis­played on the bat of Mel­bourne Rene­gades Dan Chris­tian, at his re­quest. “I just started off re­ally small … it wasn’t un­til we moved to Bris­bane that I started tak­ing it se­ri­ously,” MacNeill says of her art­work.

“I know now not to paint dur­ing the day only be­cause I’ve done a paint­ing and I’ve come back and my daugh­ter has painted over it.”

With a big leap and plenty of ag­gres­sion, she flirted with the idea of pur­su­ing a rookie spot on the Lions AFLW list, but it wasn’t for her.

“I think if I was born 10 years ear­lier I would have ex­celled. It’s some­thing I’m just so pas­sion­ate about,” she said.

“Foot­ball for me is an out­let to be my­self for an hour or two, away from my chil­dren and I just get to be Emma for a lit­tle bit.”

MacNeill and Robin­son make a great team.

Last Thurs­day night, af­ter a bit of Fort­nite, Robin­son had five of his team­mates booked in for a trim. He was set for a busy night. MacNeill was there too, fuss­ing over the lads.

Robin­son now has a life filled with fam­ily, foot­ball and his pas­sions.

The Lions would be proud.

Mitch Robin­son with fi­ancee Emma MacNeill and kids Charli, 2, and Chance, 4. Pic­ture: LIAM KIDSTON

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