By Ollie Nash
Brown celebrates goal number 10 against Port Adelaide in 2019. Photo: News Corp Australia
How many players have kicked 60 or more goals in all of the past three seasons? The answer is one. How many players have been in the top four goal kickers for all of the past three seasons, and the top two for the last two years? The answer is one. How many players have had 85 or more shots on goal in all of the past three seasons? The answer is, you guessed it, one.
Ben Brown is that player. The epitome of consistency and probably the unluckiest player to have not yet won a Coleman Medal. Apart from Richmond, Geelong, West Coast, GWS and Carlton, what clubs aren’t calling out for a 27-year-old, 200cm key forward that averages over two goals a game?
North Melbourne is a club that needs a key forward, but yet they’re reportedly willing to part ways with their current star due to some poor form to start season 2020. Seems weird to me. There is certainly some blame to go on Brown, but let’s not ignore the other factors affecting his form.
Brown runs off the ground after injuring his knee against Geelong in round 10. Photo: Albert Perez/AFL Media/via Getty Images.
North Melbourne have the third worst efficiency going inside forward 50, and they’re the fifth worst team at turning the footy over with nearly 62 turnovers a game.
Brown had Nick Larkey, North’s other key forward alongside him in round one, before Larkey was injured and didn't return until round eight against Carlton. Tom Campbell and Tristan Xerri were both tried for one and two games respectively as secondary options, but both struggled to perform.
Brown has been the Kangaroos only key forward target for the majority of the season, with poor ball use going inside 50, there's no wonder he was out of form.
What baffled me is that in round nine North Melbourne faced Adelaide, a team that some experts think won’t win a game this season. Larkey was named for his second consecutive game after returning the week before, but Brown was dropped. He finally had his chance to play a game with some key forward support against the Crows who have one key defender in Daniel Talia, and he’s dropped. But wait … it gets better.
In round 10 against Geelong, Larkey was managed after only playing two games, while Brown was brought back into the side. He was left to battle Harry Taylor, Lachie Henderson and Mark Blicavs alongside Majak Daw, who had played one AFL game in 709 days. What a way to help your key forward’s confidence and form.
Throughout this entire ordeal, rumours have circulated that the Kangaroos are looking to part ways with the big man. That’s the most surprising part of the entire story and recency bias at its absolute finest. Let’s not forget he kicked 10.1 against Port Adelaide in round 22 last season. But with that being said, it’s a possibility the uncontracted star will move on, so let’s look at some of the suitors for his services.
Ben Brown celebrates a goal. Photo: AAP Image/Daniel Pockett
Brisbane have all the pieces. An All-Australian defender in Harris Andrews, a possible Brownlow Medallist in Lachie Neale and a young forward line led by Charlie Cameron and Eric Hipwood. Surrounding these stars are a whole host of role players; Jarrod Berry, Hugh McCluggage, Darcy Gardiner and the like. Daniel McStay and Oscar McInerney have been serviceable second options up forward, but Ben Brown could take them over the edge to a premiership. It’s what Brisbane lacked in last years’ finals series, that second key forward that could take the pressure off Hipwood. Brown gets to roam around the Lions forward 50, while Hipwood gets up the ground and uses his running ability. It’s a partnership I’d like to see.
Is there a team crying out for a key forward more than Collingwood right now? Brown would slide in seamlessly with the Pies and free up their current forward group nicely. Darcy Cameron, a fit Ben Reid or even Mason Cox could be that other key forward, after some trial and error, one of them would fit with Brown. Brody Mihocek can revert back to being the third tall option, and the small forwards can go back to roving the marking contest, instead of being the leading target for every inside 50. It would fix a lot of their current forward line woes.
The Bombers are in no mans’ land with key forwards at the moment. Joe Daniher is slowly working back to full health and could be back in the side in the coming weeks. After requesting a trade to Sydney following 2019 though, who knows where he’ll be wanting to play in 2021. With or without Daniher, Brown could fix a lot of Essendon’s problems. With Daniher’s injury issues in the last two years, key forwards have been hard to come by for the Bombers. Shaun McKernan and James Stewart are a couple of players who have tried to take on the role, but Brown could be the man to fill the void up forward for the Dons.
If Geelong win the premiership this year, I think I would take back this suggestion. However, if they fail to win the flag in 2020, recruiting Brown could be a last-ditch effort to win a premiership with this current group of stars in 2021. Esava Ratugolea is young, but he’s only kicked three goals from nine games this season. He’ll be the key forward of the future, but for now, they need someone to consistently perform alongside Tom Hawkins. This current group led by Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield haven’t got many years at the top left. Therefore, I could see Brown giving Hawkins some support up forward and providing another avenue to goal for the Cats.
Cover Photo: Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images