Mitch Brown is two types of players.
The first kind is someone who is low-key, not thought of as elite, someone with high VFL stocks. He’s someone who at any given moment could disappear into the ether, never to be heard of again.
He looks boney and lanky, can be streaky, not quick, and doesn’t boast the same explosive qualities of a Lance Franklin or Tom Hawkins.
The second kind of player Mitch Brown is and has become: an underrated match-winner with a workhorse work ethic.
It was late in the third quarter in the must-win game in Adelaide. The Bombers had clawed their way back to a two-goal deficit after trailing by 30 points and on the verge of being blown apart.
Essendon defender Michael Hartley had the ball deep in the Crows forward line and switched the play to Mason Redman on the opposite half back flank who then chipped the ball to an unmanned Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti.
Throughout this transition, Mitch Brown had cut a run from Hartley’s side of the ground at halfback, then through the middle, and took a mark 40-metres from goal from McDonald-Tipungwuti.
He somehow got ahead of the play. Brown slotted that goal. Perhaps this surprised most of us that the 196-centimetre frame could move like a midfielder, cover a large chunk of the ground, show composure and kick a pressure goal. But he’s been doing these kinds of things all season long. And most of his career.
Brown finished the game stuffing the stat sheet: 14 kicks, nine handballs, eight marks and four goals. He came to life in the second half when it mattered most and in the absence of Joe Daniher and Orazio Fantasia, he stepped up proving that he is a viable forward option.
Commentators were raffling to send all kinds of accolades toward Brown after he kicked his third “off-break” goal in the final quarter.
“He’s a good player.”
“When he plays well generally the Bombers play well too.”
“He’s a bit like Lynch from the Crows.”
“He’s the best forward 50 kick for them (Bombers) right now.”
For a player who is not ranked inside the top 200 AFL players, you would have thought they were referring to Joe Daniher.
Since the 28-year-old joined the Bombers, he’s managed to carve out 49 games for the red and black in four years.
In that time, this is what we know about Mitch Brown. Worsfold is confident in his ability. When at full strength he’s the first guy selected from the VFL to fill any forward line holes. He’s an unassuming forward that usually gets the third or fourth defender. He makes the most of his opportunities, however limited.
In the last eight matches of 2018, Brown averaged 13 disposals, seven marks and almost two goals per game. That stat line puts him in company with the likes of Josh Caddy, Jordan de Goey and Luke Breust.
This year we are seeing similar numbers, if not better. Against the rampaging Lions at the MCG, Brown gathered 25 touches, 11 marks and booted three goals.
That day he clocked up 14.5 kilometres – more than Brisbane’s midfield ace Hugh McCluggage.
After the game Worsfold said, “Mitch is a very hard-working player who covers a lot of territory. His work ethic has never been questioned.”
The following week against the Roos, Brown backed up his good form with Jeremy Cameron-like numbers: 20 disposals, seven marks and three majors.
Let me be clear: Mitch Brown is very underrated. What he brings is reliable form. He brings a huge, elite tank with repeated efforts.
He provides a link between defence and attack. He creates space for his teammates. A lot of his work on the field is often undersold yet it provides key components to the Bombers winning games.
Since the loss of Joe Daniher, Brown has been able to provide flexibility: pushing up the ground into contests and chipping in with goals. What Brown lacks (and why AFL fans view him mostly a VFL player) is consistency.
He’s not the type of traditional player to build a forward line around. He doesn’t boast fiery characteristics. But good things happen when he touches the ball. He creates, he runs, and quite often left unattended because opposition coaches haven’t considered Mitch Brown as someone that needs tending to.
Without Brown’s contributions this year, the Bombers wouldn’t have won some of the games they have won and we wouldn’t be talking about their finals hopes. The fact he’s been able to carve out 64 career games just when he was on the verge of playing out his career in the VFL for Sandringham, is a credit to him and the skillset he does bring to the Bombers.
And just maybe we’re only seeing the best of the versatile Brown now, considering he endured six hard years at Geelong doused by injury and limited opportunities.
More than ever before the AFL accentuates diverse styles. Forwards are now defensive-minded and can roam large parts of the ground. Midfielders are expected to be everywhere and kick goals.
Defenders focus on intercept marks, run and carry, lock down and sometimes kick goals. There’s a role for every kind of athlete and the game has well and truly moved away from brute strength and pack-to-pack football.
The best attacking forwards are graceful, make things look easy, are smooth, and are built like Greek gods.
Think: Ben Brown, Jack Darling, Tom Lynch. Mitch Brown deviates from that. He’s all elbows and tinny and makes things look awkward. He’s unsung and often under the radar. But he gets results.