Mark Mickan played 85 VFL/AFL games for the Brisbane Bears and the Adelaide Crows, while enjoying stints at West Adelaide in the SANFL. After his 13-year playing career ended, he entered the coaching fraternity and eventually teamed up with the Crows’ latest debutant, Jonathon Beech, at West Adelaide. He wrote an exclusive Aflplayers.com.au column about his experiences with the 26-year-old first-gamer.
If you spent 30 minutes with Jono you probably wouldn’t even know he plays football because he is more interested in what you have to say more than anything about him. He is a young man with great humility and a genuine interest in other people.
I had known Jono’s family for a while before I commenced coaching West Adelaide back in 2014 having come from Renmark in South Australia’s Riverlands while he had grown up in Barmera, about 30km away.
It was at this time that I really got to know Jono and his father, Mick very well.
He was a very popular figure at West Adelaide, but he was humble. He has got very good values in life, he is always interested in people, especially his teammates and their wellbeing.
When I first came across Jono there was a lot to like about him from the start. He was almost complete as a player in a lot of ways. He had great endurance, a good work rate and a good overall skill base, while his overhead marking has always been a feature of his game. Jono could play winning football as a forward, wing and he played behind the ball as well as anyone.
His capacity to take a mark inside forward 50 set him apart really because he was always able to find space or take a contested mark. Jono was always one of the front runners in our pre-season running and was continuously improving his core strength and as a result of that he is pretty durable having hardly missed any games through injury.
When West claimed the premiership in 2015 he was hugely important to us. He played centre half forward that day but we usually used him as a third tall forward and there is no doubting he was one of our better players on the day.
Throughout the Grand Final, he was a constant threat which was highlighted by his two goals. We had to play four finals to win the 2015 premiership and he maintained a very high standard throughout those big games.
For a long time before he got drafted, many of us at West Adelaide felt as though he was one the AFL had missed. He was someone to always respond very well to not being drafted. He understood that there was only so much he could do and that was to play well and be as consistent as possible. The rest was beyond his control.
When he was finally selected, I think he had done just about everything he could. I would have thought he might have been drafted several years earlier. During his time with West he had played state footy, shown good leadership qualities and was a consistent performer in best and fairest counts including winning one best and fairest award himself.
In some ways it was a surprise when Jono was drafted because we thought he might have been overlooked at that stage of his career and his chance had gone.
We never thought he wasn’t good enough but we thought the AFL clubs had lost interest. But when his chance came, we were delighted for him. We knew we would miss him big time but he deserved it.
We came up against Jono in his first game for the Crows in 2016 and always knew he was going to be a hard player to match up on and that was probably the only downside of him being drafted, knowing that we would have to play against him. We have been hurt by him in a lot of ways when he’s played against us.
I’m so pleased he finally got his chance on Friday night against St Kilda.
When I first found out he would be playing I sent him a congratulatory text like a lot of other people did and wanted to make sure I got home in time to see it. I thought he worked his way into the game beautifully; his second half in particular was outstanding. He presented well, worked hard and took a number of strong overhead marks.
I thought he kicked the goal of the game. It just showed the composure that typifies his very even temperament and game sense on the football field against all opposition.
It was a poignant moment as Jono immediately dedicated his goal to his beautiful late Mum, Tammy, who sadly passed away way too young.
There was a lot of emotion expressed towards Jono by his teammates after the goal. That’s probably a reflection of the esteem with which he is held by all people who have had the privilege of knowing him.
I think he has got a lot of AFL football in him, if Adelaide chooses to persist with him they will be well rewarded.
If I had advice for Jono it would be simple — well done mate. That’s one game with one tick and there’s potentially another 100 there to be ticked off if you maintain your football work ethic.