Tom Brown, who Richmond selected with pick No. 17 in the 2021 NAB AFL Draft, opens up about the injuries his father, former Geelong player Paul, sustained following an unprovoked attack in 2015. AFL.com.au ran the following story on Brown in early November, ahead of the Draft...
TOM BROWN remembers his mum bursting through his bedroom door with the news.
"I was in grade six and was in bed and Mum said 'Dad's been king hit'. I thought 'Oh yeah, Dad will be fine'. I always thought Dad was invincible," Brown told AFL.com.au.
Brown's father Paul, who played 84 games for Geelong from 1988-95, had been punched unprovoked outside a shop in Shepparton in country Victoria in 2015. He was left lying on the footpath unconscious for several minutes after the attack, before being taken to a local hospital with a skull fracture and bleeding to his brain. He was later airlifted to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne for further treatment.
Tom, now 18 and a potential top-25 pick at this month's NAB AFL Draft, recalls being shaken when the seriousness of the incident dawned on him.
"It's almost bittersweet because he got king hit and they scanned his brain and found a tumour, which they wouldn't have found if he didn't get hit. I was young and didn't really understand what was going on but I knew it was a pretty tough time for the family," he said.
"After a week we went down to the hospital to see him and I remember seeing him in bed and he was so out of it, it wasn't Dad. I was shocked by that. Then after his surgery we'd go and visit when he was doing his rehab and struggling to walk as he got back into it."
Paul had the tumour removed and was off work for some time as he recovered from the punch, which saw the perpetrator jailed for six years in 2016.
"I'll always be proud of my dad. I'm proud of how he is now and how he's still going well and hasn't changed," Brown said.
"It's probably made me appreciate family a lot more than I used to, because you never know, he could've hit his head and died. He could've been taken away like that. It's made me appreciate my family a lot more and want to spend more time with them."
Paul is back healthy and playing a big role in shaping Tom's ambitions to make it to the top level. Paul played in the 1994-95 Grand Finals for the Cats and would have played in more games if not for injuries, but the Cats won't get priority call over Tom, an attacking and athletic half-back with speed and smarts, as a father-son option.
"If I go to him for advice he'll be helpful but he's also great at going to the coaches because they know best," Brown said. "He sits me down every now and then and forces me to watch his highlights. There's not many of them! They don't go too long, so I stay and watch. I would have liked to see him play."
Brown's draft season was interrupted by a syndesmosis ankle injury that saw him miss 10 weeks in the middle of the year, but he was able to bookend that with some solid games that showed his run and composure and capacity to get in the air and take a mark.
He is one of four siblings, with older sister Millie already in the AFLW system having been a father-daughter selection at the 2019 draft (unlike the father-son rule, the father only needs to have played one game for a club to have priority access over his daughter).
"Millie and I have been best friends forever. We used to do everything together. When we were younger we were mad Geelong supporters and we used to play the Geelong theme song in the laundry and then run out with the cup in our hands. We thought we were playing a Grand Final and at half-time would come out with the oranges. She's two years older than me but I joined in with her footy, which has been a part of our lives forever," he said.
"She definitely always had me covered until I hit puberty and got a bit stronger and started growing and I haven't looked back. I'd say up until 14 she smacked me. I am really proud of what she's achieved and she's a really good role model for me in a sort of similar path."