By Justin Flynn
Nathan Brown left St Kilda’s Queensland AFL hub in July and immediately went to work helping his wife Liana with her business venture in Barwon Heads.
He had not featured in the Saints’ side this season and left Queensland to return to the couple’s new home on the Bellarine.
Liana is a physiotherapist and has opened Studio Barwon Heads, a boutique clinical pilates and physiotherapy studio. Nathan and good mate Josh Wheeler built the studio, which was once the town’s newsagency, virtually from scratch.
They have two girls in preschool and Nathan decided to leave the hub, retire from the AFL immediately and head back to Victoria to be with his family.
“Liana and the girls were happy to come up and join me in Noosa,” Nathan says.
“But I thought okay we’ve moved down to this great little community, Liana is setting up her business and our future, the kids are in kinder and they’ve settled in with new friends and after 14 years I didn’t want to drag them up to Noosa and suspend their lives for six months and pick it up once I’m done.
“I left in a really good head space and really happy and that’s why when I get asked if I’m missing footy and I’m not really.
“I miss certain aspects but I am so happy and content with my life down here that it’s okay.
“I’m very grateful for the long time I had in the game, but excited for the next part of my life and this is here in Barwon Heads.”
Nathan and Liana grew up in Ballarat and both sides of the family are still there, so life after football was always going to draw them to regional Victoria.
“Once we had the kids we were like, ‘right where do we want to bring the kids up?’,” Liana says.
“Our eldest got to primary school age and we really needed to make a choice so we chose Barwon Heads because this is where we come whenever we’ve got a spare weekend.
“We’ve fallen in love with coastal life and Barwon Heads was the choice. We can walk to the bakery, pharmacy, coffee shop, beach, oval, kinder – it’s great, we just love it.”
Liana specialises in spinal therapy and swears by using movement for pain in her treatments. She also has a background in dance.
“It’s been a very difficult year, but it’s allowed me to focus on one-on-one appointments,” she says.
“I much prefer to work with individuals who need that one-on-one attention. The group classes are on hold. It’s something we can’t advertise until we are allowed to.
“The response has been really good. I love being able to change someone’s pain and if that person tells a neighbour or a best friend then that’s the best.
“This is a fusion of trying to get people moving with a bit of physio on the side. Trying to get a bit of a boutiquey feel to it, a little bit of day spa feel, relaxing and tranquil so people feel really good about moving rather than fearing it.
“I call it a feminine touch on an exercise rehab studio.”
Nathan has not been lost to football forever, though. He has signed with Barwon Heads and says he is “slowly learning” the intense rivalry with Ocean Grove.
“It’s a great little league down here and because it’s a community feel and the community stops on a Saturday and walks up at two o’clock and watches the game,” he says.
“I’m happy to not play footy, but just being down here and amongst the community, it’s the right thing to do and something I will enjoy.”
“We’ve heard about the hill,” Liana says.
In the meantime, Nathan says his role at Studio Barwon Heads could be as a “potential receptionist” but also looking forward to seeing daughters Billie, 5, and Farah, nearly 3, enjoying the community vibe.
“I’m looking forward to taking them to preseason training when it’s a lovely warm night and they can run around while we train,” he says.
“Liana’s the reason why I played so long. I had a lot of injuries early and luckily enough my wife’s a physio and she’s looked after me and got probably another five years out of me.”
And who will Billie and Farah barrack for after dad played 130 games for Collingwood (including the 2010 premiership) and 53 with St Kilda?
“It doesn’t really matter who, but Billie already says when we drive past Kardinia Park ‘that’s where the Cats play’,” Liana says with a laugh.