Jonathan Brown was simply a cut above, says Mal Michael
A COUPLE of things stuck out when Mal Michael joined the Brisbane Lions in 2000 and met a young Jonathan Brown.
"Big country lad, big presence ... terrible haircut," Michael, who had been traded from Collingwood, recalled to APN this week.
"We used to call him the Lego head. It looked like someone had got his hair and just placed it on his head and fitted it into place."
Brown, of course, would go on and become as solid and immovable at centre-half forward for the Lions as his hair during the club's golden era of 2001-2003, when they won three premierships, and for the next decade after that before his retirement this week.
One of the game's modern-day greats, the 195cm, 103kg powerhouse, who hails from Warrnambool in country Victoria but became a Queensland legend, hung up the boots on Monday after 256 games and 594 goals.
The 32-year-old now father of three will be sent off with a lap of honour at half-time of the Lions' clash with North Melbourne at the Gabba tonight.
Three-time premiership teammate Michael, who formed one of the toughest defences alongside current Lions coach Justin Leppitsch and the Scott brothers, Chris and Brad, said Brown had just as big an impact off the field as he did on it.
"He enjoyed a good time, enjoyed being around the club," Michael said. "He was one of those players who came from interstate so football became everything to him.
"They get taken away from their family and school friends and they have to integrate and embrace the footy club, and he was one of those young fellas that did that.
"Jon was good at solidifying the group with functions or just getting players to do something, other than just stay at home.
"I'm not sure if we had an actual official title for the social leader but he was right up there organising stuff."
Renowned for his genuine, laidback nature, Brown was the Lions captain for seven seasons, taking on the role when he was at the peak of his powers in 2007.
Regarded as one of the AFL's best two or three players in the mid-to-late-2000s, with Chris Judd and Nick Riewoldt, Brown knocked back a huge offer from Collingwood in 2008.
While leadership and loyalty were among his best attributes, it will be his courage, and in particular, his pack-marking, he will be remembered for most.
"You knew he'd always compete for you," Michael said. "He'd always seem to mark the ball at crucial times in a game - and kick the goal.
"I always get asked who out of the Brisbane team you believed was the best player... Brownie probably wasn't the best player, but he was probably the most valuable player to the team."
Michael, who played the last two seasons of his 238-game career with Essendon (2007-2008), has been coaching Aberfeldie suburban Melbourne, but has kept a close eye on Brown and the Lions.
"I would've liked to have seen him play more at full forward (this season)," he said.
"A bit like an Alastair Lynch cameo up there... a big presence at the top of the goal square.
"But that's always been Brownie though, his strength has always been his running and leading and pack-marking, so it would have been hard for him to go away from that style of play that he felt so accustomed too."
THE BROWN FILE
- Drafted 1999 (father-son selection)
- Brisbane Lions premiership 2001, 2002, 2003
- Coleman Medal 2007
- All-Australian Team 2007, 2009
- Merrett-Murray Medal 2007, 2008, 2009
- Brisbane Lions captain 2007-2013
- Brisbane Lions leading goalkicker 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013
- Robert Rose Award For Most Courageous Player 2007, 2008, 2011