Brown quietly becoming Collingwood’s man for big moments


Hear him talk and it’s obvious he embraces such moments.

“I actually enjoy playing in last quarters,” Brown said.

“When the game is on the line it is only natural that you give a little bit more and you really will yourself to get to a few contests and once I am at the contest I try to have an impact.”

Brown is having an impact as a small forward in his third season as a Magpie, blossoming in the role since he returned in round four after being left out of the team in rounds two and three.

Those watching him this season have noticed his confidence growing as he uses his pace and agility to take on the game and drives his legs to power out of stoppages rather than immediately giving the ball away by hand.

He has also become one of the team’s leading pressure players, regularly among the Magpies’ top three on that measure.

All that adds up to the simple observation that Brown looks more at home at Collingwood in 2019.

Brown tackles Bulldog Josh Dunkley.Credit:AAP

It’s taken him time to feel that sense despite spending much of his life linked to the club his father Gavin played for in 254 games, a Collingwood champion forever remembered as a famous part of the Magpies’ drought-breaking 1990 premiership, a game Callum admits he’s never watched.

In explaining why, Brown doesn’t lose the opportunity to have a cheeky, good-natured swipe at the old man who was famously knocked out in the game’s quarter-time brawl before returning after half-time.

“We always say we are going to watch it … but we will only probably get to see a quarter-and-a-half of him,” Brown said.

“We have seen him get knocked out and we have seen him come back on and kick that goal but that is probably about it.”

He says seeing his dad flattened wasn’t great but there was still enough there for the family to get a laugh.

“It was probably funnier when he came back on and had a little bit of a push and shove with [Terry] Daniher,” Brown said.

No wonder he doesn’t spend much time poring over Dad’s highlights as Brown admits not many hours go past where someone doesn’t mention Gavin to him.

“When I first got to the club it happened a lot but it has probably worn out a bit now,” Brown said.

“At least he’s not a bad bloke.”

I think I am playing with an edge at the moment and that is helping me.

Callum Brown

The apple doesn’t seem to have fallen far from the tree in that regard with both Callum and Tyler (who joined the list in 2018) well regarded inside Collingwood as they quietly go about their business of improving their craft and helping the team.

Assistant coach Garry Hocking has spent plenty of time with Brown to encourage him to bring out his best attributes during a game.

In some ways Hocking has taught Brown how to show the flair he demonstrated as a junior rather than providing the courageous but sometimes vanilla offerings he served up when he first arrived at Collingwood, a habit more due to his natural inclination to do what was right for the team than any limits on his ability.

“I think I am playing with an edge at the moment and that is helping me play all right footy,” Brown said.

He always had a desire to do what was required to make it, overcoming being cut from squads as a junior before finding his spot late at the Eastern Ranges in the TAC Cup under astute former Bomber Darren Bewick.

In summer as a teenage he also had a chance to spend time with Richmond premiership player Jason Castagna, the son of one of his dad’s best mates Carlos Castagna, as he went about the business of trying to forge an AFL career as a rookie.

The Browns and the Castagnas regularly camped and mucked around in boats on the water near Mansfield together.

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“It was good. I got to go on runs with him. He is a superfit guy so just seeing the way he went about it with his diet and so on was handy,” Brown said.

He laughs at the mention of his mum, Kerry, who he says used to push him, Tyler and younger sister Tarni, who is also shaping as a handy footballer, along on their bikes when they were young, exhorting them to keep up.

It’s hard to know if the oldest son is joking when he says that his mum is the main fitness guru in the family but her level-headed approach to life kept the clan active while his dad worked as an assistant at Collingwood and then North Melbourne.

“I don’t get as much advice from her as Dad about footy but she likes to chip in now and then,” Brown said.

Brown is doing more than chipping in now and then in 2019 as he begins to establish himself in the line-up.

That running goal from the centre against Sydney  showed there is plenty more to Brown than first met a Collingwood supporter’s eye.

But the question has to be asked, did he run too far?

He laughs before answering.

“Technically yes but you can’t change the decision now,” Brown said.

“Beamsy [Dayne Beams] was in my way and I had to get out of his road at the start. Then I felt like I ran a bit and steadied. Then we were looking at the vision and I was like … I ran a fair way.”

And after just 21 games he has a fair way to run yet.

Peter Ryan is a sports reporter with The Age covering AFL, horse racing and other sports.

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