At 21, Germany backpacker Martin Scheuth had his entire life ahead of him.
He was a talented soccer player and trumpeter, could play complex pieces on the piano with one hand and was studying agriculture.
He spent his childhood on a dairy farm and had plans to become a farmer when he travelled to Australia in 2006.
On September 14, 2006, the day before he was to start work on an Ardmona dairy farm, Mr Scheuth was attacked by three men as he walked along McLennan St, Mooroopna.
The men repeatedly kicked the German backpacker and stomped on his head, leaving him unconscious against the wall of a building.
Doctors initially believed Mr Scheuth would not survive, or, if he did, he would have severe brain damage.
It took seven months for Mr Scheuth to utter a word in German, and he had to learn how to eat again; it was a long road to recovery.
But 12 years after the attack, Mr Scheuth, 33, lives independently in Germany and believes life has a plan for him.
He can now walk, speak in English and German and believes things will continue to improve through rehabilitation.
He still has a passion for agriculture and would like to complete his studies.
‘‘It has been very hard, sometimes I ask why did this happen, why I had to go through it, it has been a long process,’’ Mr Scheuth said.
‘‘I’ve lost so many things and I think it will forever be difficult, but I also believe that every year it’ll get a little bit better.’’
Mr Scheuth returned to Shepparton for the first time since the attack in 2016, and visited the scene of the crime.
During his recovery, he has forged a long-distance friendship with dairy farmers Cathy and Greg Martin, who had planned to employ him before the attack happened.
Mr Scheuth said it was their kind and caring nature that had kept him coming back to Australia and to Shepparton, despite what had happened.
He has forgiven his attackers, but wanted a chance to meet with them to show them the impact they had made on his life.
‘‘I don’t know what I would say to them, but I think it would be helpful, it would maybe help me to understand what happened, to try to remember.’’
Mrs Martin said it had been emotional to see somebody who had been perfectly healthy end up with a disability because of the decision of another.
‘‘He is a very bright man with a great sense of humour and I find it extraordinary that a young man from Burin met us from Shepparton and now here we are, 12 years down the track,’’ she said.
‘‘It’s quite strange how connections are made, but there is a strong connection for him to come and visit us, and we always laugh more than we cry.’’
Mr Scheuth said it would not be the last time Australia or Shepparton would see him, as he planned to return.