Gavin Brown recalls a moment involving Leigh Matthews from early in his career that has stuck with him ever since.
The 1990 premiership Magpie, three-time Copeland Trophy winner and two-time All-Australian was known as one of the most courageous players of his day, but he admits it wasn’t always the way he operated.
As a Templestowe and Marcellin College junior, Brown concedes courage may have evaded him as his most defining attribute but remembers the exact point where that all changed.
It was his first year at Collingwood and the memorable words were delivered by a man who played and coached without fear in his savagely successful and distinctly decorated career.
“I was told by my coaches in the juniors that it wasn’t necessarily the case,” ‘Rowdy’ told SEN Breakfast when asked if prevailing toughness was always in his game.
“But I do remember a really strong message from Leigh Matthews one day, and I really think this had a fair bit to do with the way my footy ended up changing.
“When I first started in 1987 there was a practice match up in Donald against Richmond and I remember Leigh was sitting on the bench with us back then as they didn’t have the coaches box.
“One of my teammates pulled out of a contest and Leigh just grabbed me by the arm and said, ‘Did you see that?’, and I said, ‘Yes’.
“He said to me, ‘I don’t want to ever see you do that’.
“I was only a young fella and I really took hold of that. I don’t know why, it just really resonated in my brain.
“I just went out there and I thought, ‘Well that’s it, I’m just going to attack everything here and be like a bit of a madman’. I guess I thought it was my opportunity to impress him and make my mark.
“It really stuck with me.”
Brown would go on to play 254 VFL/AFL games in the black and white and in the process, became a revered figure at the famous club. His name is also popular in many front bar discussions relating to the game’s toughest players.
The current North Melbourne assistant says he has eight-time flag winning player and coach ‘Lethal’ to thank for that.
“He certainly had a fairly big influence on people, such was the impact on me,” he added.
“I don’t think I was always that way. Maybe I had it in me but I certainly made an effort at the start of my (senior) career to be pretty hard at the ball.”
Listen to Brown’s chat with Garry Lyon and Tim Watson on SEN Breakfast below: