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Brown and Black: shades of brilliance

Brown was a premiership player before he had turned 20 and a triple premiership player at 21. He did so playing in the key forward post in a champion team, carrying on the legacy that other key forwards and Hall of Fame members such as Dermott Brereton and Wayne Carey had created before him.

In 2002, when playing at the MCG against Hawthorn, he won the mark of the year when he charged headlong into oncoming traffic and snared the ball on his chest in front of goal. It was dangerous and thrilling, not so much typical of Brown but something only he would think was worth doing.

Jonathan Brown comes off the field under the blood rule in 2009.

Jonathan Brown comes off the field under the blood rule in 2009. Credit:Joe Armao

He played 256 games and 250 of them were in the most combative style possible as he stood like a huge tree in a storm, taking marks or providing crumbs for his teammates.

The battering took its toll and he retired midway through 2014 after a series of head knocks had everyone telling him he’d done enough. Brown bowed out sensibly, his decision greeted with relief as though he were a boxer and everyone was in his corner.

David Teague, right, spoils Jonathan Brown in 2005.

David Teague, right, spoils Jonathan Brown in 2005.Credit:Wayne Taylor

At his best he dominated games with his marking and long, accurate, set shot kicking. He could absorb the pressure of a moment before kicking big goals and lifting one arm to the sky in triumphant fashion. As the son of a former Fitzroy player, Brian Brown, he was the complete package for both old and new Lions.

He called a spade a spade and was great company for his teammates, who knew a footballer’s footballer when they saw one, a country boy from the south-west of Victoria who asked for nothing except a fair dinkum contest and a beer at the end of it all.

Brown had a healthy sense of humour, too, once calling Collingwood full-back Simon Prestigiacomo “the caravan” because he used to strap him on at the start of a game and drag him around for two hours.

Brown won three consecutive best and fairests between 2007-2009 and was twice All-Australian during those years, winning the Coleman Medal with 77 goals in 2007.

He was named in the Australian Football Hall of Fame in the first year he was eligible, joining four of his premiership teammates, Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis, Nigel Lappin and now Simon Black, who have the honour.

Black was supposed to be formally inducted last year but in a sign of the times was on a reality television show and unavailable. Yet on Tuesday night he was formally recognised for his career where he earned three premierships, a Norm Smith Medal and a Brownlow Medal.

Deftly: Simon Black in action for the Lions.

Deftly: Simon Black in action for the Lions. Credit:The Slattery Media Group

It was not a bad return for a player from Western Australia selected at pick 31 in the 1997 national draft.

A handballing machine, he distributed the ball to the Lions’ runners with monotonous regularity, so good at his craft he picked up 39 disposals in the 2003 grand final when the Lions decimated Collingwood.

Where Brown was loud, Black was of a different hue, unassuming, humble and consistent, a coach’s dream.

His teammates loved him too as he got his quick hands dirty, his diving handball a work of art that only whistle-happy umpires occasionally failed to appreciate. His left foot looked laconic but the ball speared towards teammates and he ran with the flow of the game like a farmer herding cows, reaching stoppage, after stoppage, after stoppage at the precise time he was required.

In the end, Black played 322 games, a three-time best and fairest and three-time All-Australian, enough to turn his half-smile into a broad grin.

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