THE six months of his first pre-season for the Western Bulldogs in 1996-97 were the toughest half a year he’d ever put in, former AFL player Nathan Brown said on Saturday morning.
Addressing the guests at the annual BFNL breakfast, Bendigo born and bred-Brown said the training regime hit him “like a brick wall.”
“It remains the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I didn’t find out until quite a long time afterwards that senior coach Terry Wallace had decided I needed toughening up.
“So he got Libba (Dogs’ star Tony Liberatore) on my case.”
Brown told how Liberatore had deliberately decked him in the intra-club practice matches especially in the very first one played during that summer.
“Plough (Wallace) had told Libba: ‘we need to harden this kid up a bit’,” Brown said.
“So he got Libba involved and, boy, did he follow Plough’s instructions.”
Brown survived that first summer going on to play 219 senior matches for the Dogs and Richmond, nailing 349 goals and being named an All-Australian in 2001 and 2002.
The former crack Bulldog and Tiger forward revealed another early sporting interest to surprised breakfast guests in the South Bendigo rooms.
“I played a fair bit of tennis as a teenager. Mum and Dad took me around Australia (to tournaments) but I didn’t have a great temperament so I didn’t follow through with that tennis interest,” Brown said.
His first football team was the Quarry Hill under-12s. “I was only seven when I started. That’s how old I was in my first game.”
Brown played for the Dogs from 1997 to 2003 and for Richmond between 2004 and 2009. He vividly remembers the 1997 preliminary final when the Bulldogs were 22 points up late in the game before the Adelaide Crows rolled over them.
“Darren Jarman kicked three quick goals for the Crows. I had a chance to steady us but I fumbled near goal – in one of my worst bloopers ever – and missed the goal which was crucial to us.”
Despite the recent retirement of Sydney Swans star Adam Goodes, Brown rates Adelaide’s Andrew McLeod as the finest indigenous AFL player he’s ever seen.
“He kicked seven goals in that preliminary final I mentioned. He was a gun,” Brown said.
On the local scene the former Bulldog forward rates former Eaglehawk star, Colbinabbin player-coach and Carlton player Damien Lock very highly.
“He was probably the pick of the bunch in our intake, or era, in the late Nineties and should probably have played 200 AFL games,” Brown said.
“I remember watching him out here on the QEO when the Bulldogs played an AFL practice match and Locky was playing for Carlton.
“”He cleaned us up that day and I would have loved to have seen him play more AFL footy. He had more talent than I did and if he becomes a senior coach in the BFNL that would be great.
“Locky has an excellent footy brain and if he does get a job as a senior coach here in Bendigo footy that would be great for the sport,” Brown said.