Jonathan Brown is best known for three things: 1) The Brisbane Lions, who he captained and won three premierships with; 2) courageous acts, which resulted in a number of rather horrific facial injuries and concussions; and 3) his Aussieness, in that you just have to hear him speak to know this bloke is as Aussie as they come.
This week Brown announced it was “time to call an end to ‘me’ footy career”. With that, a curtain was drawn on the career of one of the great forwards of recent times. In fact, it wouldn’t be out of place to talk of Brown in the same breath as Wayne Carey, the benchmark for the greatest centre half forwards, such was his talent and influence on the game.
Were it not for the injuries that plagued him for the latter part of his career, Brown’s legacy may have been equal to Carey’s, such was his dominance at the height of his powers.
Brown peaked around 2006. At the time his output was quite staggering, with Nick Riewoldt probably the only forward to come close in terms of statistical output in recent times, and Matthew Richardson slightly earlier. I fondly recall a Dream Team round that must have happened at this time, when – as my captain scoring double points – Browny got me home in a key match-up with a mammoth score in the 180s. I’m still thankful to the great man.
During 2006, Brown averaged 19 possessions, 10 marks and 3.5 goals a game, but was still overlooked for All-Australian honours. He was however selected for the All-Australian team the following two years, and pulled off a string of three consecutive club fairest and best awards from 2007 to 2009.
For all of his statistical dominance, one of the things I liked most about Brown was his ability to kick goals when his team needed it. He kicked the captain’s goals: the 50m set shots to steady the ship, keep the team in it, win the game, or release the pressure.
But along with his leadership and ability under pressure, Brown’s game was characterised by power. He’s one of those blokes – and Dave Warner is another – whose neck is as wide as his head, and he looks like he belongs more in a rugby union scrum than on a footy field. The type of bloke who’d (hypothetically, of course) be impossible to strangle, because your hands would only get half way round.
The thing that set Brown apart from other big-bodied players was his courage, and in particular his willingness to run back with the flight of the ball, often into the path of an oncoming pack. In fact, it was this facet of his game that was both admired and pilloried the most; Brown was often accused of not having enough regard for his own safety by putting himself in high-risk positions. Brave? Yes, but perhaps slightly insane too.
And in the end, this was his undoing. After a career spanning 14 years, 256 games and 594 goals, the risk of long-term health damage was too great to ignore after receiving his latest concussion just over a week ago.
It’s the best thing for Jonathan Brown and his family that he’s called it quits. For me, he’s one of those rare players who could do it all, and I’ll always regard Browny as one of ‘me’ favourite players of all time.
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