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More than a forward

With 61 goals and an impressive season, it isn’t just Ben Brown’s on-field efforts that will have him acknowledged at tonight’s prestigious Brownlow Medal ceremony.

“Obviously it’s a massive honour to be considered for the Jim Stynes Community Leadership Award,” Brown told ABC.

The award acknowledges the off-field work of AFL players in the community sphere.

“For me it’s really important that I put time into work outside of football … I want to be more than just a footballer,” he said.

“I do things that I really enjoy and am passionate about.

“It’s great that I’m at North Melbourne, we’re a community club and we do a lot of work in this space, and there’s a lot of people who do a lot of hard work in the community sector so it makes it really easy for me [to stay involved].”

From autism awareness organisation, Lend a Hand to Hugo, to domestic violence prevention organisations like Our Watch and Safe Steps, Brown is passionate about making a difference.  

Within the walls of Arden St, he has been a key driver in setting the foundation for an inclusive culture ahead of the inaugural AFLW season in 2019.

“I’m part of the gender equity strategy group in which we discuss the issue of gender equity within the club,” Brown stated.

“The first thing from my perspective is to make sure that the women coming into the club feel really welcome and just as much part of the club as anyone else.

“We’ve also been making sure that the male players, who have always been in a male dominated industry, are ready for the AFLW team to come. And the playing group has gotten right behind that which is great.

“We’ve got massive renovations that are going to take place to the facilities over the next couple of months to make sure there is room for the women to come in and feel like there is a space that’s their own.”

Though there is still a lot of work to be done, the club remains an industry leader in the space.

“We have the most women in our footy department out of all the AFL teams, which is great,” Brown said.

“We know that diversity within the workforce, not just meaning men and women, but also culturally, improves the state of things around the club and ensures that we are really progressive.

“We have big round table discussions with a few players from the men’s and women’s teams along with some of the higher ups at North.

“We talk about how things have gone at other clubs [when integrating an AFLW team] and get insight from AFLW players that have come from other clubs about what went well and what we can do.”

Knowing the importance of cohesion, it is the small steps of integration the club are capitalising on.

“We’ve had some of the [AFLW players] come into our rooms pre-game,” Brown said.

“As well as welcoming the women into the environment and having them sit in on our match reviews and just having them around the club.”

Brown is modest about the work he does in the community, and is quick to acknowledge the support of the club, the playing group, and his wife Hester Brown, in the nomination for the Jim Stynes Award.

The winner of the Jim Stynes Community Leadership award will be announced tonight at the Brownlow medal.

Listen to Ben Brown's interview here:

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs