It’s hard to remember too many footballers building that into their arsenal, although one of the great champions of our game, Adam Goodes, did. In his early years he could get pushed around a bit, but in time he became a warrior – a really tough, hardened opponent.
I also watched with interest as basketballer Luc Longley, in the ABC’s Australian Story, detailed how he had to transform his entire personality to play alongside Michael Jordan at the Chicago Bulls and survive in the NBA. A gentle giant, he had to find a new toughness to compete.
While Brown certainly isn’t on Goodes’ level, and isn’t dealing with anyone near Jordan’s stature, he’s managed to add a real steeliness to his game. He’ll never be an ‘aggressive’ player in the true sense of the word, but he’s now much more capable of playing an important role.
Once upon a time three or four goals was seen as the benchmark for a good Ben Brown game. Now, I expect to see more of what he displayed against Brisbane a fortnight ago. It wasn’t just the 15 touches and nine marks – although that’s handy – and it wasn’t necessarily the goal he kicked either. It was the predictability he provided his team-mates.
With the form of Tom McDonald dropping off a touch from the start of the season, Brown becomes the focal point that guys like Kysaiah Pickett and Charlie Spargo can work from.
With Brown more competitive in the air, he’s either marking it or the ball is dropping at his feet. That’s the predictability.
The Cats will be without their number one intercept player, Tom Stewart, but Jack Henry has filled that role well. Brown, along with McDonald and Bayley Fritsch need to make Henry, as well as Mark Blicavs and Lachie Henderson, accountable.
While Steven May and Jake Lever have had much of the focus this week, Brown looms just as crucial to the Demons’ hopes of breaking their premiership drought. Has something been triggered inside him? Or has a fresh environment and different coaching simply reinvigorated him?
Regardless, Simon Goodwin deserves great credit for what he’s managed to achieve this season.
The ‘demons’ of this club’s past often get spoken about, but now there seems to be a real calmness about this group. They’re well drilled and look focused.
David Neitz led Melbourne to its last Grand Final in 2000, a 60-point defeat against Essendon.
Now, I believe this group is primed to overcome the years of pain that have followed and go one better.
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