Brown close to AFL flag after torrent toil

It was on a miserable summer’s day in Tasmania that Melbourne recruit Ben Brown made a statement of intent, even before starting work at his new AFL club.

© Michael O’BRIEN/AAP PHOTOS After sevens seasons at the Kangaroos, Ben Brown hopes his first as a Demon ends with a premiership.

Brown is one win away from capping his first season at the Demons with a premiership.

The former North Melbourne cult hero was unceremoniously offloaded in 2020, when contract talks broke down as he recovered from a season-ending knee injury.

Rather than sulk about the end of his 130-game stint at the Kangaroos, Brown quickly reset focus on making a good first impression.

It was at this juncture that former Melbourne defender Colin Garland, who retired in 2017, reached out to his fellow Tasmanian.

Garland’s offer to do some off-season training with the key forward, in town to for a couple of weeks, was gleefully accepted.

One particular session stands out in the memory of Garland, who recounted it as part of his jumper presentation speech that preceded Brown’s club debut in Hobart.

“It was pouring. You could hardly drive on the road,” Garland told AAP.

“It was torrential, heaviest I’ve ever seen.

“I was meant to meet Ben at 8am to do some running and have a kick and whatnot. I thought he was going to pull out because it was so cold and miserable.

“He didn’t. When I turned up to the oval, he was already warming up. I sort of knew then that the club had got someone who was really serious about staying at a high level.

“There’s so many stories like that. Look at the work Max (Gawn), Tom (McDonald), Christian Petracca, Christian Salem and others have put in … this didn’t just happen.”

Garland’s text message to Brown, welcoming him to the club, might not seem like much.

But it speaks wonders for the culture that coach Simon Goodwin and captain Gawn have helped build.

“He hadn’t met any of the players. I felt like I could build a little bit of a connection between him and the group,” Garland said.

“I think that (connection between past and present players) is something Melbourne has gotten better at.

“Goody sent all the past players an email before the prelim, saying he wished we could all be there in person and a few other things.”

Garland’s entire career came during a miserable chapter for Melbourne, although he was at the club when Goodwin was first appointed Paul Roos’ right-hand man.

The one-club player featured in zero finals, 34 wins and 141 games.

But the 33-year-old is only full of excitement about the youth-fuelled push to end Melbourne’s 57-year premiership drought.

“The club means a lot to me. I was there from age 18 to 30,” Garland said.

“Definitely not envious, I’m just enjoying the ride.

“After your time, you just become a supporter.

“And it’s just like anything in life. When you see close friends, who are good people, achieve success in whatever field – that’s a really good thing.”

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