Lion King Jonathan Brown is entering his 15th AFL season, boasting 573 goals and three premierships from 245 AFL games. He talks family, flags, fighters and Four’n’Twenty pie warmers.
Let’s cut to the chase. Is 2014 your last season?
I honestly haven’t decided. I’m just playing it year by year but there’s a couple of prerequisites. You have to stay on the field and you’ve still got to perform to a high enough level that satisfies the club and yourself.
When you do retire, will you get into the media side of things or pursue a coaching career?
More media I reckon for a while. I’d like to take a step back from the day-to-day operations of a footy club but I’ve got an interest in helping younger guys out, even it’s just young key forwards.
Any chance of playing some country footy?
Maybe the Supers (over 35s) … maybe South Warrnambool could fly me down for a few games. To be honest, I reckon when my days in the AFL are done, my days of any footy will be done.
You were a more than handy left-arm bowler in your youth. How far could you have gone in cricket?
Sometimes you wonder if you applied myself to cricket like I did with footy what would have happened. But I reckon it would have been unlikely I would have made it. I would have loved to have opened the bowling at the MCG on Boxing Day though.
Tell us about the time you met Wasim Akram.
He was a real hero of mine. I remember the 1992 World Cup final when he cleaned up the Poms. I met him at the Gabba once and I was a bit overawed. He was a really nice fella. I told him he had to get into the AFL.
On to boxing. You were part of Vic Darchinyan entourage at a world title fight in Las Vegas while you were on your honeymoon?
It was amazing. I carried the Australian flag in. He was the first person to ever unify the division. It was an unbelievable experience. I didn’t tell (wife) Kylie I was carrying the flag. She gave me a strange look when I walked past her.
But Mike Tyson brushed you recently?
We were supposed do an interview for Nova Radio but a TV reporter gut under his skin in the press conference prior and we missed out. Iron Mike wasn’t happy. I introduced myself and he said “Hi Jon”, so at least he knows my name.
How has being a parent changed you? When you were a young bloke you listened to AC/DC before games but now you probably can’t get the Wiggles out of your head?
I love being a Dad. We’ve got a third on the way too. Life slows down a little. I’m not the party boy I used to be and I can’t have the boys around to the house like we used to. But I wouldn’t change it for the world. You still hurt like hell after a loss but it does give you a different perspective.
I understand you are the disciplinarian in the house but I also understand that both your kids, Olivia and Jack, push the boundaries. That does make them the bravest kids in Queensland?
My little girl said to me yesterday: “Daddy, I love you very much but why do you swear so much?” I said “It’s because of you darlin.” Jack is only 12 months old but he is climbing on everything. I expect him to be on the roof soon.
How is Jack shaping as a father-son recruit for Brisbane in 2031?
He’d want to toughen up. He’s a Mummy’s boy at the moment. At this rate, he’ll be playing golf or tennis.
As part of your extensive sponsorship portfolio, you endorse utes, footy boots, meat pies and beer. Does that make you the blokiest bloke in Australia?
(Laughs) It wasn’t by design. But I’ve been lucky to have some really good sponsors who have looked after me. I suppose it makes more sense for me to be plugging Crown Lager than French champagne.
Speaking of which, I hear you have a spectacular man cave at home?
It’s a pretty good set up and we have a bit of fun out there. Four’n’ Twenty put in pie warmers for me because you can’t have a bar without pies. CUB are putting in taps soon because you can’t have a bar without beer taps.
A pub in Warrnambool brewed a beer named after you. What does “King Brown’ beer taste like?
It looks better than it tastes.
You have a reputation for being the toughest hombre in the AFL but what makes Jonathan Brown melt?
Sometimes you get a reputation and people get carried away with it but I’m no different to any other bloke, my family is my soft spot.
Speaking of that hard man reputation, have you written off any cars with your elbow lately?
I only got back on the bike last week for the first time since I got hit by the car (on the Gold Coast in 2012). I think the club would be happy for me to stay off the bike for good.
How close did you go to retiring during those series of bad head knocks?
The second one (when Brown collided with teammate Mitch Clark at the Gabba against Geelong), I went close to retirement bur it wasn’t the broken bones … you heal from that. It was the head knock. It took a long time for me to get over it, I didn’t feel confident to drive for a month afterwards, let alone play footy. I questioned my footy mortality, no doubts. I made one mistake and the other two were freak accidents. People close to me told me to keep playing the way I’ve always played.
How will your body hold up post-footy? I remember a fan in Toowoomba at a community camp once telling you that you looked a bit proppy and you swung around and said, “It’s called 14 years of putting your body on the line”.
I reckon I’m pretty good. A lot of people talk about my injuries but there hasn’t been a real lot, the ones I’ve had have been pretty graphic though. Everyone seems to worry about how I’m going to walk when I’m 40 but honestly, I’ll be fine. I’ll still be right to play footy with Jack in the backyard.
Does it bug you that since that great Grand Final run with the Lions, the club has played just two finals in 10 years?
Yep. Definitely. I am very uncomfortable with it because playing finals is why you play footy.
Did you play in a final against the Western Bulldogs in 2009 with a broken cheekbone?
There was a break in there. I did get it scanned but I avoided the surgeon’s knife that week so I could play.
Mal Meninga once said you would have made a fair rugby league player. How would you have gone and are you jealous of how rugby league has embraced the Origin concept?
I am jealous. I was fortunate enough to captain Victoria a few years ago now, which was a real thrill. I don’t reckon I’d be quick enough to play league. I also struggle to keep weight on so I might struggle.
What did you make of the 131-point loss (in a pre-season game) to Hawthorn the other night?
It was a very young side that we played. The focus of our pre-season is for the senior blokes to play the last two practice matches. We won the NAB Cup last year but it didn’t help us start the season proper, did it? We have to keep a long-term perspective.
Jason Akermanis seems to be back in the fold at the Lions. That’s a fair comeback from Aker?
It is but people have got to remember we went through so many great experiences together. There is a bond there. Aker came to training recently because Leppa (new coach and three-time premiership player Justin Leppitsch) wants to bring back the ex-players. A lot of what has been said is water under the bridge now and the memories of those good times outweighs the negative stuff.
What was your reaction when you first hard that Vossy had been sacked as senior coach?
He was in my hospital room and we spent an hour talking about it. I was dosed up on painkillers because I just had an operation. It was surreal. I honestly didn’t see it coming and it was really sad to see that happen to a mate. He worked so hard to bring the kids along. Hopefully Leppa can build on that work Vossy did and reap the rewards.
This article originally appeared in the Herald Sun. To view the original article please click here