Jon Brown celebrates with fans in 2009. Picture: AFL Photos

HE WAS almost drafted to Hawthorn and was a whisker away from ending his career at Collingwood but Jonathan Brown will forever be remembered as Brisbane's three-time premiership champion.

And now an Australian Football Hall of Fame inductee.

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The focal point in the Lions' premiership three-peat, Brown was club and Victorian captain, Coleman medallist, triple best and fairest, dual All-Australian and three times voted the most courageous player in the game.

Brown talks through 10 moments that shaped the kid from Warrnambool who made it big in Brisbane and was loved in households all over the country.


No.1: The first taste of premiership success

After 51 games for Fitzroy (1976-1981) and two for Essendon (1982), Brian Brown returned to the south-west of Victoria to raise a family with wife Mary. A star of the Hampden Football League, Brian would quickly relinquish the limelight to his eldest son Jonathan.

BROWN: "You talk about understanding the importance of playing in a great team, there's one moment that I cherish most… standing on the premiership dais with dad in 1985 as a three-year-old when he captain-coached Colac to a premiership over South Warrnambool which ironically was my team when I grew up. I think it's my favourite childhood memory.

"Dad hands me the premiership cup, I'm dressed in my Tigers gear of Colac. That always stayed with me and something I aspired to be a part of down the track was that team success."

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No.2: The rock star brought into line

Wrestling and games in the backyard quickly graduated to a prominence on the football field. Rising through the ranks, Brown made his senior debut for South Warrnambool at the age of 15.  

BROWN: "My first game against Port Fairy, there was a bit of tough love to making sure I wasn't getting ahead of myself. Dad dragged me out of bed at 6am to go fencing in the cold, wet rain for about five or six hours.

"I thought I was a rockstar playing senior footy at 15. It was a baptism of fire, certainly sink or swim and you realise pretty quickly you've got be able to stand up for yourself to be able to survive that type of environment.

"I wouldn't have been able to do it without my parents. Mum drove me all over the countryside even when she had some stops at antique joints along the way and we were late I used to give her a fair old burst."

Jon Brown with his 2001 premiership medal. Picture: AFL Photos

No.3: The Brisbane decision

Impressing for the Geelong Falcons in the TAC Cup, a 17-year-old Brown had interest from several clubs at the end of 1998. But despite Brian's Fitzroy career meeting the 50-game father-son eligibility, Brisbane had committed their underage pick to prodigy Des Headland at No.1. 

BROWN: "A couple of weeks before the draft registration, Hawthorn approached mum and dad and said they were going to take me as their 17-year-old pick. Then for whatever reason they changed their mind right before the cut-off. They went in another direction with my old Geelong Falcons teammate David Loats, who's a ripping bloke. Port Adelaide were interested, maybe the Western Bulldogs, but I could never get that guarantee.

"Sitting in Dad's office at school, he was a teacher, it came down to whether you go into the draft, roll the dice and lose the Brisbane guarantee (for 1999) or decide you're going to stay out and finish year 12.

"Leigh Matthews had just signed, Dad said 'He'll be unbelievable for your football career, they've got a really good list and are going places'. It was great foresight for a club that had just won the wooden spoon. History says they were pretty prophetic words.

"That would've been about 1pm, the draft registration was due at 2pm and that was it. I signed the Brisbane Lions father-son commitment for 12 months later."

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No.4: The physical and mental transformation

Dropped several times in a debut season that netted 13 games, Brown took it upon himself to change the course of his career at the end of 2000.

BROWN: "I knew I was a long way off it physically. I went home and committed to my old cricket captain, Rodney Ryan … he had a bit of a history with boxing training and fitness so he took me under his wing. Gruelling boxing training in an old tin shed in the back blocks of Warrnambool. I would've trained every day for six weeks, I reckon. They were brutal sessions.

"Gradually he took me to a level where my body and mental strength was able to cope with more. I wasn't the quickest bloke going around, so I needed to be able to rely on my ability to outwork opponents. I just came back a different athlete. I trained most of the pre-season with the midfielders, played every game and we won the flag.

"There was also a conversation with Leigh (Matthews)… I can't remember if it was going away to the off-season or when I got back but he said, 'You're our centre-half forward'. For the greatest player the game's seen and your coach to give you that confidence that's pretty bloody important."


5: The mark

Round 17, 2002 v Hawthorn. Brown throws himself into an oncoming pack, running back with the flight to take one of the greatest marks ever and the Mark of the Year for that season.  

BROWN: "Playing as a centre-half-forward you're going to be put into reckless situations because you've got players behind you. I don't know whether Lynchy (Alastair Lynch) looked after me or he just threw Jade Rawlings into my path who's another good mate of mine. We have a laugh looking back on that saying I should give him part of the prize.

"I look back on some of those moments and he was just a great teammate, Lynchy, along with Daniel Bradshaw, they really looked after me. They were the eyes in the back of my head."

6: The goal that swung the 2002 Grand Final

After leading by eight points at the main break, the Lions found themselves trailing by seven points with less than 90 seconds left in the third term. Collingwood, led by Nathan Buckley, Anthony Rocca and Chris Tarrant held all the momentum.  

BROWN: "They (Pies) could've put a reasonable margin on us after missing a few shots on goal. We went coast to coast and Brad Scott hit me with a beautiful pass. At the time you're aware of the significance of the contest and the time (left).

"I remember going back and Vossy looked at me and said a few words. I just remember the stare he'd give you. Any time you got the stare you knew you didn't want to let your captain down. I don't reckon I've hit a ball sweeter in my career. As soon as it hit my boot I thought, 'Shit, that's going through'.

"We used to always pack the wet weather boots in the back-up bag. I never warmed up in them, it was a pretty wet day, but I didn't want them to get wet before the game. We came back in and I asked the property steward for them and they weren't there, they'd been left in Brisbane. There was a fair bit of anxiety. I knew Leppa wore the same boots, size 13 Adidas boots. Quarter-time when he was slipping everywhere, he asked if I still wanted the boots, 'Absolutely I do'."




No.7: The bag of eight goals in round 6, 2005.

Suspended for five matches out of the losing 2004 Grand Final, Brown also required surgery on a knee injury that had troubled him late in the season. There was no holding back when he was ready to return.

BROWN: "I did have a five-week suspension but I don't think I would've been ready to play before that after a bad knee injury. I had a bad year in '04 from a suspension point of view and wanted to prove to people you weren't a thug. I'll never regret actions that happened in the Grand Final, we were trying to win four in a row and make a stand.

"I did most of the pre-season on my own, I was in a brace until post-Christmas and then got myself in really good condition with the fitness guys Craig Starcevich and Lachie Penfold. I don't know if Leigh was winding me up or not, but he said 'You're going to have to come back through the reserves. Then we'd lost four in a row, then on the Monday he said are you ready to play seniors? It was just one of those nights where everything stuck."

No.8: The sole captaincy

After Michael Voss' retirement at the end of 2006, the Lions opted for five co-captains – Brown, Luke Power, Simon Black, Nigel Lappin and Chris Johnson. But for Brown, being named standalone in Voss' first year as coach in 2009 meant more.

BROWN: "I didn't agree with it at the time (five captains). I'm still not a massive fan of it, maybe you could get away with dual captains but not any more than that. I just think's too many voices and causes some indecision.

"When you're asked by one of the greatest captains in history to be his captain, that's a great honour. Playing finals and leading us out. It's the significance of having more responsibility."

Brown was an inspiration to his teammates. Picture: AFL Photos

No.9: Staying a one-club player

After four consecutive years of missing finals with Brisbane, Collingwood came knocking for Brown's signature at the end of 2008. He almost walked.  

BROWN: "You do appreciate it when you look back. I think it's pretty significant to say you spent 14-15 years at one club and the same club as my father.

"I felt responsibility to the club, I was captain, albeit co-captain, we'd had great success, I was pretty optimistic about the group. My wife (Kylie) was from Queensland, we were just about to get married.

"The argument to move didn't outweigh the argument to stay, ultimately. People talk about the finances, they come into play when it's a significant difference. It wasn't ridiculous. The offers by Collingwood have been far overplayed. I was bloody close, you couldn't fault Collingwood's approach."

No.10: The head knock that almost ended a career

After a serious head injury in round one, 2011, Brown returned eight weeks later. But in round 17 of the same season he considered throwing it all away.  

BROWN: "2011 really knocked a hole in me, not my confidence, but more because I was still in good nick at that stage. I got my face smashed in in round one and came back later in the year and got a significant head injury and took me a long time to get over.

"Then I think I copped another surgery at the start of next season with a training mishap. That was always a struggle to get back energy-wise. I played another two or three years, but I didn't return the same athlete.

"That one in 2011 I thought, 'Gee it's going to be hard to come back from that', to the point of mid-2012 I was almost ready to hang the boots up. I just thought I'd look back and regret retiring when I felt like I when had stuff left in the tank. I certainly didn't have anything left by the end.

"Kyles never put pressure on me to retire. That was the most significant reason I was able to keep playing. If I was getting heat from home, I would've hung them up."

Brown was concussed after a head clash in round 17, 2011. Picture: AFL Photos

Jonathan Brown by the numbers

Played 256 games and scored 594 goals for Brisbane: 2000-2014 
Three-time AFL Premiership player: 2001, 2002, 2003
Club captain: 2007-08 (joint), 2009-2013
Club Best & Fairest: 2007, 2008, 2009
Club leading goalscorer: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2013
AFL leading goalscorer: 2007
All Australian: 2007 (Vice-Captain), 2009
Represented Victoria in the Hall of Fame Tribute Match: 2008 (Captain)
Robert Rose Award for Most Courageous Player: 2007, 2008, 2011
AFLPA Best Captain Award: 2007, 2009
AFL Mark of the Year: 2002
Pre-season Premiership: 2013

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