Brown Sugar

TIV Blogger Aaron Lord chats to former Collingwood defender now St. Kilda enforcer Nathan Brown about his transition from the Pies and future career beyond AFL Football. 

If St. Kilda needed a sweetener to complement their bold recruiting strategy for 2017, it came in the form of former Collingwood premiership defender, Nathan Brown.

The Saints were broadly acknowledged as one of the big winners during last year’s trade period in particular, with Jake Carlisle, Koby Stevens, Jack Steele and Brown adding a wealth of experience and significant depth to an exciting St. Kilda list already flushed with talent.

After eleven years with the Magpies, including 130 games and a Premiership in 2010, Brown could be forgiven for feeling a sense of satisfaction and potential closure at the end of last season when reflecting on an outstanding career with Collingwood that had become somewhat uncertain, for no apparent reason.

Reliable, disciplined, super competitive and incredibly hard to beat, Brown was a rock of Gibraltar in defense for a decade with the Magpies, taking on the best forwards in the game every single week and beating them with underrated regularity.

A subtle feeling of monotony however, and with the future seemingly unclear at Collingwood, Brown would begin to consider his options and ultimately make the decision to leave the Pies and join St. Kilda as an unrestricted free agent at the end of 2016.

“It was the perfect time in my career to make a move,” Brown says.

“I felt like I needed a change after 11 years at Collingwood, and after meeting with Richo (St. Kilda coach Alan Richardson) and seeing what he has done with this group and where he saw me fitting in, I had no doubts about joining the Saints,” he adds.

That decision to join St. Kilda has already been vindicated with Brown, now 28, quickly embracing the Saints culture, game plan and structures and being one of their best players through the first six games of the season.

Not only is he given the unenviable task of quelling the opposition’s best forward each week, he also allows his fellow defenders more freedom to attract the footy by taking the opponent those players would otherwise be accountable for.

Having been through the process of changing clubs myself, I can appreciate the emotional rollercoaster Brown would have experienced, but if the first six games are any indication, then it is acutely clear that Nathan Brown has adjusted better and more quickly than most.

“You think that because you’ve been in the industry for 11 years the transition to another club will be fairly easy, but in reality it is actually really tough,” Brown says.

“New faces, new habits, new structures, new ways of life – you get through the initial discomfort and then things become normal again.”

That discomfort would be felt no more prominently than a fortnight ago in Round Four, as Brown would encounter his former club for the first time when St. Kilda met Collingwood at Etihad Stadium.

The first time you play against your former club is as important an occasion as any final or milestone game you play throughout your career.

For most, round four was just another home and away game, but not for Nathan Brown – he will remember it as vividly as the 2010 final series – it truly is that significant.

“I just really wanted to win. You really just want to beat your old club,” Brown says smiling.

“During the warm up, you see old faces and you’re a bit all over the place, but once the game starts you settle into what you know and just try your best and when the siren sounded we were in front so it was great.”

Not only has Brown made a smooth transition from a playing perspective from Collingwood to St. Kilda, he has also joined the existing group of Saints players including Sam Gilbert, Josh Bruce Luke Dunstan and Tom Hickey currently studying a Certificate III in Carpentry at the Trade Institute of Victoria (TIV).

“I’ve done some work experience previously in the industry with a couple of project managers and it really gave me a taste for building and construction,” Brown says.

“Joining the St. Kilda group at TIV has been fantastic. They’re a highly motivated bunch of guys who just want to learn and get along really well, and we look forward to coming into TIV every week,” he adds.

As if his football career and studying Carpentry weren’t enough, Brown is already considering studying a Certificate IV in Building and Construction simultaneously as he methodically plans for life after football.

“At the moment I just want to focus on getting qualified and skilled up in as much as I possibly can,” Brown says.

“It’s such a broad industry (building and construction) – you can move into whatever you want to do once you’re qualified,” he adds.

“Most of the boys are looking to become registered builders down the track and this Carpentry course is the perfect pathway for us to achieve that.”

There should be more Nathan Brown’s in the world. Polite and approachable, he enjoys a good a laugh but is as committed and driven as they come.

He is so much more than just a reliable defender. He is a leader, an Ambassador, a selfless teammate and the rock of stability St. Kilda so desperately needs in its quest to become a serious challenger for its next premiership.

He is the icing on the cake – the sweetener for the Saints in ’17.

He is Brown Sugar.

Author: Aaron Lord.

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