Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton takes skills Down Under

Cam Newton spent the week in Australia learning Australian Rules Football as part of a player exchange program with Gatorade.
Cam Newton spent the week in Australia learning Australian Rules Football as part of a player exchange program with Gatorade. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Down Under is exactly where Cam Newton’s “footy” skills are.

The Carolina Panthers quarterback traveled to Australia this week to learn more about Australian rules football as part of a Gatorade player exchange program.

Though he’s good enough to command a $103.8 million contract extension from Carolina, those skills didn’t exactly translate in AFL.

“It’s great to see someone so cool struggle at a sport,” said Chris Newman, a veteran defender for the AFL’s Richmond Tigers.

Newton admitted coming into this week he had no background in the sport.

“I had nothing,” Newton told reporters. “I knew nothing about footy, as you guys call it.”

Australian rules football differs significantly from American football. There are 18 players on the field for one team at a time, you can advance the ball with any part of your body, throwing the ball is prohibited and the primary way to score is to kick the ball between two posts.

Newton tried his hand – and foot – at different aspects of the game this week. In the video below, a Tigers player is teaching Newton the proper way to drop the ball and kick it.

“I tried kicking a couple of times while I was here and the ball didn’t go as far as I expected it to go,” Newton said. “I think I need to scoot in a couple of meters.”

And in this video, Brett Deledio asks Newton to throw the AFL football as hard as he can. Deledio is clearly surprised by the velocity and gets a hand on the high throw – something Newton is known to do in the NFL.

Newton spent time in meeting rooms and even watched film with the coaches. He was impressed by the effort given by the Tigers’ players as well as the physicality of the sport.

“In our sport they’re constantly putting things on you to protect you,” Newton told reporters. “In this sport they’re taking things away. I’m seeing guys get prepared and all they’re wearing, in essence, is a tank top and a pair of boxers and going out there and giving it all they have.”

Said Gatorade, one of Newton’s sponsors, in a statement: “Gatorade Football Exchange is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that provides athletes from American Football and Australian Rules Football an opportunity to immerse themselves in the training and culture of another footballer’s sport to demonstrate that different forms of football played throughout the world and that athletes from these various sports all share the same formula for success: talent + hard work + the right sports fuel.”

Newton is expected to arrive back in the States on Thursday, where he will prepare for his foundation’s 7-on-7 championship at Nation Ford High School this weekend. Three area teams –South Mecklenburg, Nation Ford and Hough – will participate in the 16-team tournament.

Jones: 704-358-5323; Twitter: @jjones9

The Cam Newton Foundation’s 7-on-7 Championship will be held Friday and Saturday at Nation Ford High School in Fort Mill, and the public is encouraged to attend. Tickets will be $3 at the gate and the proceeds will go to the foundation.

Games begin at 9:30 a.m. both days with pool play on Friday and double-elimination bracket play on Saturday.

Teams participating are: AH Parker (Ala.), Dutch Fork (S.C.), Jonesboro (Ga.), Newton (Ga.), Woodlawn (Ala.), Cartersville (Ga.), Hapeville Charter (Ga.), Langston-Hughes (Ga.), South Mecklenburg, Woodward Academy (Ga.), Dorman (S.C.), Hough, Nation Ford, Wheeler (Ala.) and two teams to be announced later.

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