From Football Prodigy to Club Legend – Anthony Brawn Joins the Demons 300 Club

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Article by John Acheson A Football Prodigy Anthony was a latecomer to Aussie Rules having played soccer for much of his boyhood, with the West Pennant Hills soccer club. Between the ages of 5 and 14, and after 8 or 9 seasons of the round-ball game, Anthony was talked into switching codes in 1990 by some of his Pennant Hills High School school-mates. Anthony explains: “My last season of soccer we went through the year undefeated. The team scored 90+ goals and conceded 3. We won the GF 6-0. It was my first GF win. I got pretty bored of soccer and had quite a few friends at Penno High that were playing AFL. In 1990 I played my first game of AFL for school and a few mates said to come and play for Westbrook. The rest is history.” Joining Westbrook Juniors in 1990, he played his first season in the Under 15s. A gifted athlete and talented young sportsman, it was not long before his natural affinity for our great game became apparent. In 1991, he was selected in the New South Wales Under 17 Teal Cup representative side which competed in Darwin and also in the Under 16 New South Wales Combined High Schools team which competed in the CHS national carnival in Canberra. The NSW CHS team was undefeated that year and, as well as being the joint leading goal-kicker for the Carnival, Anthony was selected in the CHS All Australian Team which included future AFL players the likes of Peter Vardy (Adelaide & Melbourne), Darren Gaspar (Sydney & Richmond), Daniel McPherson (Sydney Swans), Nigel Lappin (Brisbane) and Peter Bell (North Melbourne & Fremantle). The following year, 1992, he was again selected in the NSW Teal Cup side, travelling to Morwell in Melbourne for the annual championships. NSW competed in the Division 1 competition that year against the power-house southern states SA, WA, Vic Metro and Vic Country, and lost every game. Notable players he played against included Mark Ricciuto (Adelaide), Dustin Fletcher (Essendon), David Neitz (Melbourne) and Danny Southern (Western Bulldogs). Michael Voss (Brisbane) and Matthew Richardson (Richmond) were also running around in the Division 2 competition that year. Playing alongside Anthony in these representative teams were fellow Demons Michael Carey, Todd Davey, Ashley Bell and David Dighton and future Swans stars Brad Seymour and Daniel McPherson. As a measure of his football potential, former Club President and Coach, Leo Browne, remarked that Anthony “was one of a very few players I coached over a 16 year period who

[could] have played AFL at the very highest level” had that been his ambition at the time … high praise indeed! Leo also described Anthony as “fit, fast, a great mark and a great kick. He was capable of turning a match … I much admired Anthony’s football ability.” In his two seasons at Westbrook, Brawny kicked 137 goals in club games including a massive haul of 17 goals against Hawkesbury at Mike Kenny Oval in 1991. [At least Brawny thinks it was 17, Westbrook club records say his best was 16 … Editor].While still playing juniors, Anthony played his first games with the senior club in 1991 as a 16 year old. Although Pennant Hills’ records do not reflect his games played in the Under 19s, Brawny reckons he played a ‘handful’ of under-age games in 1991 and probably the best part of a full season in 1992. Suffice to say, he features in the Under 19 team photos for both these years. In the one for 1991, he’s perched slap bang in the middle next to his long time mate, Clarkey, beaming like a pair of Cheshire cats! Senior Footy – A legend in the making Brawny, sometimes also known as Squinty, played his first game of Senior club football for the Demons in Round 14 on 19 July 1992 against Western Suburbs at Wagener Oval. Club Patron and football tragic, Gus McKernan, was at the game and his annotated copy of the Football Record of the day notes that Anthony Brawn was a debutant that day along with Toby Knight. He was just 17. Up against a much superior team, Brawny’s debut ended disappointingly with a 139 point drubbing by Wests, 27.23.185 to 6.10.46. However, the match did yield Brawny his first senior goal. He played a second senior game later that season, before finishing the season in the Under 19 Grand Final where the Demons were runners-up to St George 12.12.84 to 9.10.64. Brawny kicked a grand final goal and, by Gus McKernan’s assessment, he was second best on ground for the Demons behind Michael Carey. In 1993 he played his first full season of senior footy. Between 1993 and 2005 he played 13 consecutive seasons of first grade footy for the Demons. As a measure of his leadership quality, he was Club Captain for 5 consecutive years 1999 – 2003. For his prowess as a player, he won the Ern Holmes Trophy (Senior team Best & Fairest) twice, in 1999 and 2004, and was also Pennant Hills Footballer of the Year in 1999. More recently, he was Reserve Grade Best & Fairest in 2013. As Club Captain he has the distinction of leading the Club to its inaugural First Grade premiership in 2000, defeating North Shore 15.12.110 to 10.7.67. After finishing runners-up in 3 seasons out of the previous five (1995, 1996 and 1998), the victory in 2000 was undoubtedly the pinnacle of his career as well as being a landmark achievement for the Club. A right foot kick, like his soccer days playing striker, Brawny has played most of his footy in the forwards. He was the senior team’s leading goal-kicker in 1997 (30 goals), 1999 (60), 2000 (33) and 2003 (38). His best haul in a match was 11 goals against Balmain in Round 9 on 13 June 1994 at Drummoyne Oval. That day the Demons demolished the Tigers 35.18.228 to 15.14.104. Current Reserve Grade Coach and long-time friend, Jason Clarke, has this to say about his mate Brawny: “As a footballer his strengths lay with that perfect combination of raw talent mixed with a fierce competitive streak. Just recently, a younger footballer remarked how Brawny had an uncanny knack of regularly kicking freakish goals – and that’s what he was (and still is) on the ground, a FREAK.” This freakish ability in front of goals sees Brawny, once again, challenging for the Club’s goal-kicking top-spot at the tender age of 40 … his tally so far this season, 37 goals, including two 6 goal bags. This guy really is a FREAK! He doesn’t really have a preferred jumper number but when pushed, conceded his favourite to be No 28, the number he wore from 1992 to 2005. For his playing services to the Club he was made a Life Member in 2001. In that same season, he suffered one of his worst injuries … a punctured lung and 2 broken ribs in the first 20 seconds of a match against Western Suburbs. At age 31, Brawny moved back to Ressies in 2006 and missed the Club’s second first grade flag when the seniors won that “unwinnable” Grand Final against the unbeaten East Coast Eagles in a quagmire at Henson Park … 5.20.50 to 7.6.48. Against the same opponent, Brawny played in the Reserve Grade team that were runners-up in the 2006 Grand Final, East Coast Eagles 6.7.43 to 2.7.19. In a career that spans 25 years, Brawny has only missed two seasons of footy, 2008 and 2011, when he took time out to help raise his three children after the birth of his two daughters in late 2007 (Ada) and late 2010 (Eliza), respectively. So, he “spent the weekends of those years with the family and coaching my son, Matthew’s, soccer team.” Nowadays, he’s back at the Demons and plays up-front for the Reserve Grade side where he is still a prolific goal-scorer and, with the Ressies running third in this season’s competition, a shot at another flag is in the offing. Brawny has competed with and against a countless number of excellent footballers over an illustrious career. He rates Barnaby Howarth and Tim Nunan the best at the Demons and Daniel McPherson as a special talent when he played Teal Cup with him. The best he’s played against was Mark Ricciuto whom he played on in the 1992 Teal Cup at Waverley Oval, NSW versus South Australia. For Brawny, the 2000 Premiership is a stand-out career highlight. “Having played in losing GF’s in 1995/96/98, I never thought the club was going to win one.” His mate, Greg “Civil” Hume tells the story of Grand Final night 1999 when Brawny “grabbed the microphone from the coaches who were celebrating the U19’s flag and said that as a club we could no longer be satisfied with just lower grade success.” It seems someone was listening, as the following year Brawny’s passion and perseverance were rewarded with the 2000 First Grade Premiership Flag. For memorable moments Brawny tells us … “every football trip with Jason Clarke and Blair Hatherley.” To the question of the greatest influence on Anthony’s footy career, he responds: Tough one to answer. I would probably have to say the first few senior grade coaches I had … Leo Browne, Steve Barratt & Peter Bennett. Also, having all the players from South Australia come to the club when I was younger was also very influential. Watching how they went about everything to do with footy. Those players were Steve Barratt (was already at club when I started), Kim Klomp, Peter Bennett, Tim Nunan and Richard Gerke.” As to his longevity, he says that “taking a few years off has definitely helped. The years that I had off, I missed footy and my wife, Leonie, would say that it was very obvious that I was missing it, so she has been very supportive of me coming back to play. Not sure what I’d do with my weekends if I wasn’t playing footy and most of my best mates have played footy with Pennant Hills,” and some of them still do. For the last words on Brawny the man, here’s what his great mate Clarkey reckons: “You cannot fault Brawny. Loyal, generous, trustworthy are words that would immediately come to mind; as a friend one couldn’t ask for any [better]. As a leader on the football ground, he leads by his actions, not [so much] by his words, but when he does speak he is pointed, and people listen. After a few frothies, however, one could be forgiven for asking for some ear plugs.” So, congratulations Brawny on achieving this remarkable milestone. You have left an indelible mark upon the Pennant Hills Australian Football Club and you are safely ensconced as one of the Club’s true Legends as a player and as a leader. Welcome to the Demons 300 Club and Go Penno!   Anthony Brawn – Football Career Highlights Clubs: Westbrook Junior Australian Football Club, 1990 – 1991 137 goals Pennant Hills Australian Football Club, 1991 – 2015 (ex 2008 & 2011) 300 games (+ U/A) Premierships: First Grade 2000 First Grade Runners Up 1995, 1996, 1998 Reserve Grade Runners Up 2006 Under 19 Runners Up 1992 Westbrook Juniors – Under 17 Runners Up 1991 Rep Honours: Under 17 NSW Teal Cup Representative Team 1991, 1992 Under 16 NSW Combined High Schools 1991 Under 16 CHS All Australian 1991 Awards: Pennant Hills Footballer of the Year 1999 Best & Fairest – First Grade 1999, 2004 Best & Fairest – Reserve Grade 2013 Life Membership (Player) 2001 Goal-kicking: Leading Goal-kicker (First Grade) 1997 (30), 1999 (60), 2000 (33), 2003 (38) Milestones: 100 games 1998 200 games 2004 250 games 2010 300 games 2015 Anthony Brawn – What his peers say __________________________________________________________________________________ Jason Clarke Q & A … all about Brawny 1. How long have you known Brawny? Brawny and I started High School together way back in 1986 in the same class. That is a long time ago … a long, long time ago actually. 2. How would you describe his personality/character? You cannot fault Brawny. Loyal, generous, trustworthy are words that would immediately come to mind, as a friend one couldn’t ask for any more. As a leader on the football ground he leads by his actions, not by his words, but when he does speak he is pointed, and people listen. After a few frothies, however, one could be forgiven for asking for some ear plugs. 3. What are his strengths as a person, a footballer, a leader? As a footballer his strengths lay with that perfect combination of raw talent mixed with a fierce competitive streak. Just recently a younger footballer remarked how Brawny had an uncanny knack of regularly kicking freakish goals – and that is what he was (and still is) on the ground, a freak. 4. What are your reflections on his football career? I marvel at Brawny’s football career. Many people don’t realise just how late Brawny came to the game of AFL. After playing the round ball game early on it wasn’t till 14 or 15 that he picked up a footy. Two years later he had played Teal Cup twice, was selected in All Australian Schoolboys side and as a 17yr old gone straight into 1st Grade SFL – back in the days when it was a league played by big, tough, physical and quite often brutal men. From there on Brawny has won pretty much every award there is at Pennant Hills – Ern Holmes Trophy, Footballer of the Year, Leading Goal kicker, Reserve Grade B&F. However, without doubt the most prestigious, and one that will forever be his alone is that of being the first ever Pennant Hills Captain to hold aloft the Bill Hart Cup. 5. Are there any footy highlights that you have shared with him (e.g. premierships etc)? Obviously, the 2000 Premiership stands head and shoulders above the rest. The U17’s Premiership in 1991 was also a highlight that I shared with him. Unfortunately for Brawny he was playing with Westbrook [the loser] at the time. 6. What more might he be able to achieve in football? Despite all his achievements his CV is empty when it comes to U19’s and Reserve Grade Premierships. Whilst it may be a little late for U19’s there is time left for a Reserve Grade flag … 7. Are there any anecdotes about him that are safe to share? Where does one start? The infamous Wollongong footy trip where he spent the whole weekend in the same set of clothes (never mind that his bag was stolen on the Friday night). Who could forget the day when having a warm-up kick on the ground before we had gone into the sheds to get ready for a game he attempted a soccer style scissor kick, landed on his head, knocked himself out and was a late withdrawal from 1st Grade! Just how much Brawny loved the Club was clearly evident on his wedding day when the wedding cake came out, for sitting on top were a pair of Bride and Groom crocheted figurines (handmade by a Grandparent) – the Groom resplendent in the Blue and Red Demons kit. Just how much Brawny loved being Captain of the Club soon too became evident as all of Leonie’s friends didn’t refer to him as Brawny, or Anthony – they all called him “The Captain” – obviously Brawny had been somewhat pumping his own tyres. More recently was Week 2 of the Finals last year. Brawny had missed the last few matches (including an Elimination final) due to a shoulder injury, but was making a much needed comeback in the 2nd Semi Final. Thursday night rolls around, massive turnout to training and the boys are all up and about. Walking into the sheds to get ready Brawny is loud … very loud! Which can only mean one thing … that one thing is confirmed when we go into warm-up drills and he proceeds to bumble, stumble, fumble every ball that came his way. Turns out he had been on a very long lunch and was anything but sober. What made the whole story even better was that he had made young Nick Baglin – who earlier that day had been promised a lift to training – drive the family wagon to and from training as Brawny wasn’t fit to drive! 8. Anything else you’d like to say? Congratulations Brawny on reaching such an incredible milestone. Looking back on your career and all the achievements you had gathered along the way, the term “Club Legend” is certainly apt. Now that you’re about to become a 300 game player, it certainly confirms what was already known, and is the icing on the cake of a tremendous career. When you throw into the mix the amazing Leonie and 3 gorgeous kids not only do you have my utmost admiration for your successes on the field, but also what you have done off of it. Finally, on a more personal note, a massive thank you – for if it weren’t for a few choice words from yourself in early 2005 I would have been lost to the Club and foregone all the success and enjoyment that the last 10 years has brought me. Greg “Civil” Hume – illuminating a few of Brawny’s finer moments He is one of the Kokoda Demons from 2004 along with myself, Clarkey, Moose, and Craig Hartley. He claims to only wear size 38 shorts, but the boys suspect he wears larger strides? In his early attempts at dating, he once grabbed a bunch of flowers from a funeral in an attempt to impress and got found out. He has a very squinty smile. He was a victim of his own success and good ability in that he did not play in any of the successful lower grade premierships of the early 1990s as he was a permanent member of the Premier Division side. As a result he had a run of losing grand finals in junior footy that was followed by losing first grade grand finals in 1995, 1996, 1998 (as well as a preliminary final in 1999). On Grand Final night in 1999 he grabbed the microphone from the coaches who were celebrating the U19’s flag and said that, as a club, we could no longer be satisfied with just lower grade success. He was rewarded with the flag in 2000. __________________________________________________________________________________ Gus McKernan recalls Anthony Brawn’s Senior debut Footy fans, I have the Football Record from Round 14, 19 July, 1992, Western Suburbs versus Hills at Wagener Oval, the day Anthony Brawn debuted along with another youngster, Toby Knight. The senior coach was Trevor Clisby, a rugged and highly respected defender, who had fractured his ankle earlier in the season. Note that the club was then known as “Hills” so as not to alienate prospective youngsters from coming to our club from Baulkham Hills. Needless to say, few came anyway, even though Baulkham Hills only had a 2nd Division senior team [at that time]. Western Suburbs were far too strong that afternoon, winning 27-23-185 to 6-10-46, our goal-kickers being Stephen Barratt with three, singles to John Murray, Paul Whelan and Brawn. Best players (my selections) were Murray, Paul Gooley, David Thomas, Michael Carey and Barratt. Wests had several big goal scorers, Nathan Lenton with eight, Jason Beverstock, five, and Andrew Taylor, four. Season 1992 was a bleak one for the Demons, with a 5/10 record plus two draws, incredibly both against East Sydney who finished bottom, one spot beneath Hills. The second of those draws came at Trumper Park in Round 17 and I can still picture Stefan Carey’s third and final goal, kicked from almost on Glenmore Road to tie the scores. Coincidentally, it was Stefan’s senior debut with Hills and he went on to be a handy player with the Swans and later, Brisbane. Just another stroll down memory lane, Gus McKernan Steve “Barro” Barratt former Club Captain and Senior Coach After experiencing some dark times in the early 90s there were a number of exciting footballers in the Pennant Hills district that were coming up through the grades – but none better Anthony Brawn. Brawny came to the club from Westbrook juniors and when I first saw him I considered him more of an athlete rather than a true footballer. My early understanding was that Anthony played soccer and had only started playing Aussie Rules at 15 years of age when a few school mates talked him into switching codes. Within a year or so he made his first grade debut in 1992 with only a handful of games in the U19s. For the next decade he established himself as a premier player in the SFL. Speed and foot skills were his main attributes but it was around goals that made him very dangerous to oppositions. He played in two losing Premier division grand finals before achieving ultimate reward by being a part of the inaugural 2000 premiership team. Brawny is a true legend of the club and would easily be included in the best composite team since the inception of the Pennant Hills AFC. Steve Barratt __________________________________________________________________________________ Matt “Moose” Gray – Former team mate and fellow Kokoda Demon One my earliest memories of Brawny is being awoken by his booming voice in the early hours of the morning on a footy trip. With his trademark grin and squinty eyes looking down at me, Anthony threw fistfuls of $50 and $100 bills on my bed after an apparently hugely successful night at the casino. Twenty years later I now know this is just a regular day out for Brawny. He is a serial winner. Anthony qualifies on more of the much discussed Demons Top 5 Lists than any other team mate I can think of. To start with, he is one of the best players I have seen pull on the blue jumper with the red yoke. Our first premiership captain, he was supremely skilled and coupled with strength and speed, he was equally dangerous with the ball in the air and on the ground. So many times he was able to turn a game with a mark, a bouncing run or a booming barrel from the centre square. For every one of his 300 games I would suggest that the opposition were acutely aware, that to beat the Demons, they needed to stop the man with No 28 on his back and [size] 38 on his shorts. Yes, Brawny also qualifies for the list of biggest Chaminda’s to ever play for Penno. Almost without fail at the season opener, team managers would get caught out not having shorts big enough for Anthony. Could it be possible that Anthony is also one of the toughest Demons ever? Some might raise an eyebrow reading that, but he is the only man I have seen do a hammy only to return the following week with a ‘I’ll just strap it up and play on!’ Sure enough that’s exactly what he did. There is no question our squinty-eyed friend also tops the list of loudest voices to ever play at the Ern or Mike Kenny Oval. As captain he never had a problem communicating from the forward line with team mates in the back pocket. Even when he comically tries to whisper, you can hear him on the other side of a room. Throw in alcohol and you can hear Brawny in the next post code. Just ask his neighbours. I am sure the list Brawny is most proud to top is the biggest biceps at the club. At any opportunity Anthony will call for a “bicep-off”. This involves flexing for judges, normally girlfriends and sometimes very shy and embarrassed younger sisters. Despite a few close clashes with his arch nemesis Luke Bilbe, Brawny has never been beaten. Well not if you ask him anyway. Now if you take into account all these lists that Brawny is on, surely then he is also a lock to be a finalist in the fabled “Weirdest Demons” of all time category? He has good company with his mate Clarkey who he now joins with Yardy in the 300 club. It’s a huge achievement to add to so many other accolades that he has achieved in his long career. A star on the field and the life of the party off it. Congratulations on 300 outstanding games, you are a true Penno legend. Matt “Moose” Gray __________________________________________________________________________________ Leo Browne – former Senior Coach and Club President From memory Anthony only started playing AFL when he joined Westbrook as a 14 or 15 year old. I do remember coaching Penno U17s who played against Westbrook in the Grand Final that year and Anthony was a junior superstar even though he had taken up the game at a late age. He had unbelievable skills for a lad who had played soccer until the age of 15 or thereabouts. I also coached Anthony in 3 of his first 4 years at Pennant Hills. His first year in U19s and then his first 2 years playing senior football. From memory he went straight into 1st grade after completing his U19 years. In fact he may have played most of year in 1st grade when still U19? Anthony always trained very hard and was always prepared to do extra that helped make him such a great player. He was fit, fast, a great mark and a great kick. He was capable of turning a match. He was one of a very few players I coached over a 16 year period who would have played AFL at the very highest level if that had been a priority for him. I much admired Anthony’s football ability. Please pass on my congratulations to Anthony on this significant milestone Leo Browne From Barnaby Howarth … this is what I think of Brawny: Anthony Brawn is what Pennant Hills footballers should aspire to be – a really good footballer, but also a sensational human being. Brawny the footballer gets automatic club legend status as the captain of the club’s first SFL first grade premiership, but he has earned his stripes as a bloke through years of repeated efforts as a team mate, husband, father & friend. He wears his many different hats with ease – I don’t remember Brawny missing a footy trip, Leonie (his wife) always seems happy, so I don’t know when the last time he let her down was, his parents are wonderful, and his children are always polite and chatty. Anthony Brawn should be highly respected as a footballer, but he should be loved as a man. Well done Brawn Dog Barnaby Former team-mate and Club Captain _________________________________________________________________________________ Danny “Big Dan” Ryan says: Anthony Brawn typifies the ‘Penno’ spirit and lives the motto – “Every Heart Beats True” As a talented junior player who represented his state in the last years of the ‘Teal Cup’, he was a player of great talent, who also had a great work ethic, an un-common trait amongst young players. His appetite and ability to do the hard work has always stood Brawny in good stead, both in football and in life – a trait obviously learned from his parents. Br awny debuted in the Senior team in the early ’90s and experienced enough of the dark days of the early ’90’s to fully understand and appreciate the struggle through the late ’90s as the club climbed the ranks of Sydney AFL, losing three Grand Finals. Then, as the Club Captain and key player, he became a major part of the breakthrough success in 2000 when Penno finally tasted the champagne with its maiden Sydney AFL ‘Premier Grade’ premiership. Brawny is a ‘straight-up’ man’s man, he does not suffer fools and is loyal to the core. He is fiercely protective of both his family and his friends and has a passion for Australian Football only surpassed by his passion for the mighty ‘Demons’. Make no mistake, Brawny also knows how to have a good time and has led the charge on many nights at famous footy trips of days gone by! I have been lucky enough to have been a teammate of Brawny’s and have witnessed him do extra-ordinary things on the field, I have also been his coach, and his support and advice was invaluable to me, both as a Captain and a respected senior player. And lastly I am lucky enough to call him my friend and that is something I truly treasure. As our great team song says, “his heart beats true, for the Red & the Blue!” – Congrats on 300 games mate – well played indeed!
By |2017-12-18T17:57:53+00:00August 27th, 2015|News|