JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.



Jonathan Brown: like something from a different era but fortunately part of this one

Jonathan Brown - no player in recent memory gave greater service to ockerism. Or had a hairline that started closer to ...

Jonathan Brown - no player in recent memory gave greater service to ockerism. Or had a hairline that started closer to his eyebrows.

There's a funny thing about meeting AFL footballers.

They tend to be either much smaller than you expected or a whole lot bigger.

Michael Voss and Jason Akermanis (both shorter than you'd think) belong in the first category.

Jonathan Brown, who retired yesterday after 256 AFL games, is firmly in the latter. His neck is about as wide as my torso.

When I first moved to Brisbane from WA in 2005 to work for the Brisbane Lions, people from back home wanted to ask me three questions.

What's Leigh Matthews like (answer - pretty intimidating)? What about Aker (the answer, like the person, is complicated)? And how about Jonathan Brown (answer - terrific fella, but more on that later)?

The Brown who announced his retirement this week was almost universally lauded, loved and respected.

Which is kind of interesting because the Brown who entered 2005 was still just about Public Enemy No. 1 in some quarters. Seemingly in and out of the AFL tribunal every second week, he somehow escaped penalty for applying a choker-hold to Jason Blake in a 2004 semi-final, then found himself suspended for the first five games of the next season after thumping Josh Carr in the grand final.

Clearly, a lot can happen in nine years. And not only from a character redemption perspective.

In 2005, if anyone had told you that Jonathan Brown would play the rest of his career virtually suspension-free (basically what happened once he realised he was far more value to the Lions on the field than sitting in the stands), you could reasonably have wondered whether he might have a career to rival Wayne Carey's.

At that stage he was 23 years old, had played 93 games and already held down centre half-forward in three premiership teams before he had even turned 22. When he finally returned from the Carr suspension in round six of 2005, he casually strolled out onto the Docklands against Essendon and helped himself to a first-up haul of 20 disposals, 14 marks and eight goals.

But over the next nine-and-three-quarter years, an injury-prone and too-brave-for-his-own-good Brown would "only" play another 162 games. After the 2004 grand final he'd play just two more finals, both in 2009 before the ill-fated Brendan Fevola trade de-railed what really looked to be a progressive Lions side.

Those statistics disqualify Brown from any comparision with Carey, whose name is an automatic inclusion in any "best-ever" conversation and who captained North Melbourne to seven straight preliminary finals (just an extraordinary stat, when you think about it).

Still, Brown goes into retirement with a resume that clearly puts him in elite company. The natural recent(ish) comparisons - because it's inevitable that we make them - might be Dermott Brereton (less games, similar match-winning ability) and Chris Grant (far more games, not so spectacular).

Brown's true peak lasted only three years - 2007 to 2009 - but in that time he kicked 232 goals, while playing alongside a teammate, Daniel Bradshaw, who booted 197 of his own (sure bet - the Brown-Bradshaw combination gets underrated historically, partly because it happened in Brisbane, partly because of the Lions' lack of team success in that era). 

In 106 games from 2005 to 2010, Brown would kick five or more goals on 29 occasions, while topping 20 possessions 26 times. In 2005, before it became trendy to have tall, big-bodied midfielders - and long before it was seen as a necessity - Leigh Matthews threw Brown into the centre square for bouncedowns, where he completely frightened the life out of smaller opponents for a few games until osteitis pubis got the better of him.

Three times he was voted the competition's most courageous player by his peers and he won mark of the year in 2002 with an effort that wasn't a shoulder-stradding screamer but was certifiably insane.

And those are only the tangible measurements of Brown's career.

No player in recent memory has a) had a hairline that started closer to his his eyebrows (weird observation, I know, but impossible not to make),  b) induced the same strange, half-swooning, half-motherly love reaction out of women with no ostensible interest in footy (again weird but you should have seen one of my journo colleagues when I gave her a birthday card signed by Brown), c) made his teammates so obviously walk a little taller and d) given greater service to ockerism.

In his excellent book Origin of the Speccies, Nathan Jarvis wrote that Brown was so strine that "if ever a film was made of his life, Bryan Brown would struggle to get the role of his mum."

There's a certain irony to that given Brown's father, former Fitzroy player Brian, was a teacher at a private school. But it's not far wrong either: certainly Brown was the only player I can recall who happily gave interviews but didn't have the word "my" in his vocabulary.

It was always "me family", "me teammates", "me missus" and sadly in more recent times "me [broken] face."

Highly endearing, it all was. Much the same as Brown's love for the dishlickers at the Warrnambool greyhound track, his penchant for terrorising Brisbane neighbours with free-swinging backyard cricket games, his reputation for well-timed and comedic on-field sledging  and the fact that he was one of the few modern day players who would chat candidly to journos in a casual setting, under the unspoken assumption that it was all off the record (I mean, seriously, who was going to betray Jonathan Brown's trust?).

In short, Brownie often seemed like a player from a different era. His retirement is as good a time as any to relish the fact he was part of this one.

We probably won't see anything quite like him again for some time to come. *

* The only player I can see with any remote chance of replicating Brown's all-round appeal is Adelaide's Tex Walker. And as good as Tex is, I reckon he'd do well to be even two thirds of the player Brownie was.

14 comments

  • A top bloke. Enjoy your retirement Browny.

    Commenter
    Catherine
    Date and time
    June 24, 2014, 8:25AM
    • He would be first picked in any team I had anything to do with.

      Commenter
      Trebor70
      Location
      Kalgan W.A
      Date and time
      June 24, 2014, 9:28AM
      • Jonathan Brown was a true old fashioned captain. His skills, size and power were only overshadowed by his courage on the field. In one way I feel sorry that we will probably never see a player like him again but in another way that probably is a good thing in this high speed game where injuries can be almost fatal. Best of luck with your retirement Brownie.

        Commenter
        CorowaKid
        Location
        Perth
        Date and time
        June 24, 2014, 9:30AM
        • In Brisbane there is not a lot to celebrate about AFL but Brownie has made his stamp on the team and the city.
          As one of our greats and he is ours why not a statue opf the big fella at the Gabba?

          Commenter
          De Perci
          Location
          Lockyer Valley
          Date and time
          June 24, 2014, 10:42AM
          • While I agree that there should be a statue for the great man at the Gabba, I think there should be a statue of Michael Voss first.

            Commenter
            danlhead
            Location
            Brisbane
            Date and time
            June 24, 2014, 11:18AM
        • Great Player, but ........ Brown was one of the co-captains when, in 2007, Mal Michael and Chris Scott deliberately targetted Riewoldt's injured shoulder off play. POOR FORM, POOR CAPTAINING! Pathetic.

          Commenter
          Brutus
          Location
          WA
          Date and time
          June 24, 2014, 12:14PM
          • Actually Brutus, that was in 2005. Michael Voss was the captain and Brown was suspended from the grand final the year before and wasn't playing.

            Commenter
            Simon White.
            Date and time
            June 24, 2014, 12:21PM
          • While sort of off topic.... If you don't want an injury targeted in profressional sport then don't step on the field. Provided nothing illegal happens, then its a free-for-all for players that play injured.

            As for Brownie, coming from a person that doesn't watch a lot of AFL, I always enjoyed watching him.

            Commenter
            MM
            Location
            Canberra
            Date and time
            June 24, 2014, 12:56PM
          • Simon, you are correct, Brown was in the leadership group in 2005 but not captain. I'm not sure if he was suspended at the time. My apologies Mr Brown.

            Commenter
            Brutus
            Location
            WA
            Date and time
            June 24, 2014, 1:50PM
          • @ well brutus you obviously dont play to win do you...in a battle you do what you have to do to win..if you dont you will lose...life skill #24

            Commenter
            skeptic
            Location
            perth
            Date and time
            June 25, 2014, 6:51AM

        More comments

        Comments are now closed

        Related Coverage

        HuffPost Australia

        AFL 2016

        Round 1
        Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
        RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
        Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
        MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
        GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
        NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
        SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
        Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
        WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
        PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
        WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
        Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
        GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 2
        Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
        COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
        Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
        ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
        ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
        BRI vs NTH 16:35G
        STK vs WBU 19:25ES
        FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
        HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
        CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 3
        Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK vs COL 13:45MCG
        RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
        SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
        GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
        WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
        WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
        GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 4
        Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
        WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
        HAW vs STK 14:10AS
        BRI vs GCF 16:35G
        CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
        ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
        COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
        NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 5
        Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
        Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
        GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
        WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
        PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
        STK vs GWS 13:10ES
        FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
        MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
        Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
        COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 6
        Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
        Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs STK 13:45ES
        ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
        GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
        RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
        GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
        Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs SYD 13:10G
        CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
        WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 7
        Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
        Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
        COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
        GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
        SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
        GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
        WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
        FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
        STK vs NTH 15:20ES
        PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 8
        Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
        HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
        GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
        BRI vs COL 19:25G
        RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
        Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
        MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
        WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 9
        Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
        Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
        COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
        GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
        PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
        NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
        FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
        GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
        STK vs ESS 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 10
        Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
        Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs HAW 13:45G
        MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
        STK vs FRE 16:35ES
        ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
        ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
        COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
        WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 11
        Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
        Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
        CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
        GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
        GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
        FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
        COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
        WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
        ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 12
        Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
        Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
        BRI vs FRE 16:35G
        GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
        WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
        Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
        STK vs CAR 13:10ES
        RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
        GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
        Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 13
        Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
        Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs WCE 13:40G
        FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
        WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
        Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
        ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 14
        Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
        ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
        COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
        Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
        GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
        STK vs GEE 19:25ES
        Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
        View All Fixtures
        Round 15
        Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
        WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
        Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
        GCF vs STK 13:40MS
        SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
        CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
        Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
        View All Fixtures
        Round 16
        Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
        PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
        Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
        Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
        GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
        WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
        MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
        Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
        WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
        ESS vs STK 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 17
        Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
        Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
        FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
        NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
        WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
        ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
        STK vs MEL 15:20ES
        BRI vs GWS 16:40G
        View All Fixtures
        Round 18
        Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
        COL vs NTH 19:50ES
        Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
        GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
        WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
        WBU vs STK 19:25ES
        GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
        Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
        HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
        PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 19
        Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
        GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
        Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
        GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
        HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
        COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
        BRI vs PTA 19:25G
        NTH vs STK 19:25ES
        Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
        MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
        FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
        ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
        View All Fixtures
        Round 20
        Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
        RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
        Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
        SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
        MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
        GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
        WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
        ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
        GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
        FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 21
        Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
        WBU vs COL 19:50ES
        Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
        BRI vs CAR 13:45G
        HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
        GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
        STK vs SYD 19:25ES
        PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
        ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
        RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
        FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        Round 22
        Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
        WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
        Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
        NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
        RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
        GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
        COL vs GCF 19:25ES
        PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
        Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
        CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
        BRI vs GEE 15:20G
        ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
        View All Fixtures
        Round 23
        Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
        HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
        STK vs BRI 12:00ES
        ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
        GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
        SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
        NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
        GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
        ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
        FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
        View All Fixtures
        AFL 2015
        Overall standings
        Team P W L D % Pts
        Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
        Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
        View all
         

        Follow Us on Facebook

        Featured advertisers