Ben Brown stands out in the AFL – tall, big shock of hair, No.50 on his jumper, North Melbourne cult figure.
He stands out to North’s forward-line coach Leigh Tudor for an entirely different reason.
“He’s self-driven. I never have to go find him,” Tudor told AAP.
“For an assistant coach, there’s a lot of different personalities in football.
“But the guys who are self-driven, when they come and get you, that’s fantastic.”
Brown’s third AFL season so far has emphasised there is a lot more to him than the big playing number and big personality.
This bloke can play and he wants to realise his vast potential.
Brown has played every game this season for North and is third in the AFL for contested marks behind Gold Coast’s Tom Lynch and Rory Lobb at GWS.
After needing a knee reconstruction when he was 17 and struggling to break into the AFL, the 23-year-old has the hungry look of someone making up for lost time.
Sure, Brown burst out laughing when he kicked a freak goal last week against West Coast, but there is a fiercely determined side to him as well.
“He’s improved pretty much in everything – he’s just so much stronger now than he was,” Tudor said.
“He’s had a lot of bad luck over his career and he’s still nowhere near his best.”
Tudor said Brown was excellent at goal-setting and over the pre-season he worked out where improvement was needed – strength, one-on-one work, leading patterns, defensive pressure, goal kicking.
It also helped that Brown has been able to work extensively with fellow key forwards Drew Petrie and Jarrad Waite.
“When you’re doing some one-on-ones in pre-season with Drew, you earn your kicks,” Tudor said.
“He just spent a lot of time in the pre-season working on his craft and good luck to him, it’s what you need to do.
“He has some good role models as well – he sees the way Drew and Waitey go about their business.
“He’s a smart cookie, if he’s been watching them and sees what they do, they do a lot of ‘extras’.”
Brown’s reflex response earlier this week was to laugh when asked at a media conference if Petrie should be dropped.
Waite’s return from a hip injury for the must-win game on Saturday against Port Adelaide means the key forward trio is back together again.
“They’re tough match-ups when all three of them are going,” Tudor said.
North need a big lift from their forwards if they are to turn around their mid-season slump and Brown will play a crucial role.
“He’s a very smart man and he understands the game,” Tudor said.
“More importantly, he works on his craft.
“He does a lot of vision, he studies his opponents, he’s opinionated, he wants to make things better.”