He’s a larger than life character with the admiration of players and fans alike, yet there’s no one more down to earth than Browny.
One of the most fearsome competitors in the game who will go down as one of the greatest players ever for the Lions, he has never forgotten where he came from. It’s that lovable country attitude that has made him so relatable to the average footy fan.
I first discovered his country ‘twang’ while lining up on him in a game in Perth. As a 22-year-old I was slightly nervous. As I encountered the brute, the heart rate intensified and he began talking to me like a farmer, throwing out lines like “I’m gonna round you up Staker, I’m gonna take you to the cleaners.”
While this may sound amusing in hindsight, it was highly intimidating at the time and he knew it.
It’s a strength he has played on his whole career, combining his incredible one-on-one power with a ferocious attack on the contest and a brilliant football mind knowing exactly where to run to find the space and get hit up on the lead. From memory he may have towelled me up that night but thankfully this foe became a friend when I moved to the Lions.
Sitting on the other side of the fence I’ve definitely seen a different side to the big man. While he has a natural footballer’s build, he works incredibly hard in the gym, and inside the boxing ring he is an animal. Imagine a 6’4 mountain of muscle standing in his distinctive southpaw style, grunting at you and making the most bizarre noises poised to unleash a series of rapid punches. There you have an image of Jonathan Brown in the ring.
He is as meticulous in his pre-game preparation as he is in his training and may have a superstition or two. I’ve noticed before every game he takes both pairs of boots and removes the fresh thick laces from his screw-ins and rethreads these through his regular boots. The whole process takes about 15 minutes and I’ve often glanced over in wonder as this huge man takes such pride in carefully preparing the laces to ensure the boots look immaculate before he leads the team out.
Browny’s a great leader and was always destined to be a sportsman. Had he not played AFL I’m sure he would have loved to be an NFL footballer, and is always down at the beach throwing the grid iron ball around like he’s Brett Favre. It’s definitely a closet dream of the big man – knowing his ability, he probably would have been pretty good at it too.
Away from the field I’ve also had the privilege of partaking in one of the Browny’s famous ‘working bees’. Happy to get others to roll the sleeves up for the benefit of his humble abode, Browny famously invited the young boys around one morning for a working bee as an extra training session. The result was about 10 young players slaving away in the back yard with Browny playing foreman – a story I found highly amusing.
However, it wasn’t long before I got my own taste of Browny’s working bees. Early in my career I arrived at his house to help him set up for a BBQ he had organised for the boys. After entering the house he turned to me and said ‘would you mind knocking the top off the lawn?”
Confused, I enquired what he meant, which he quickly clarified for me.
‘Well there’s a lawn mower over there, so…’
He didn’t need to finish the sentence, the penny had dropped and as a young man I wasn’t about to argue.
This task does not seem too great of an ask until you realise there was a large amount of pre preparation needed – basically clearing all the dog’s business from the lawn before I could even get started. After completing that task I got to work and by the time the rest of the boys arrived I was still mowing away to the delight of the newly arrived guests.
But that’s Browny, a lovable guy who you are happy to do anything for because at the end of the day you know he’d do anything for you. His loyalty to the Brisbane Lions Football Club is legendary. There have been many suitors to ask for his service but the desire to be a one club player and build the Lions dynasty has always been more important.
With his lego style haircut and ability to have a laugh at himself, he is certainly the type of guy I could see take up a role on a footy show post his career – people just love hearing from him and his quick wit would be perfect for a show like that.
He’s been a champion of the club and as good as he is as a footballer, he is just as good a bloke. That comes through in everything he does, from what you see on the field, to the countless times he stops to chat to a fan on the street; he’s just the Big Brown Dog who never forgot where he came from and never will.