This feature leads a series of ‘hard asks’ that every Sports fan wants to know but haven’t thought about asking yet. The first submission into ‘Hard asks’ poses a classic question. The big, bustling, stay-at-home forward is the Silverback of the AFL. In control, a leader, and one who almost has a gravitational pull. So without any further adieu.
Who would be more successful, The 2007 Brisbane Lions with a Silverback Gorilla starting at Center Half-Forward or Jonathan Brown in the jungles of the Congo?
Jonathan Brown was a throwback to the ‘glory days’ of the AFL. The last of the big, bustling, dominant forward who was the centre of the attack. A true alpha. The 2007 AFL season was vintage Jonathan Brown. The best year of his career. With the early success of the triple premiership behind him, the club was slowly transitioning away from the premiership heroes. After Michael Voss had retired, Brown took over the captaincy, putting a title on his natural leadership. Brown averaged nine marks and sixteen possessions a match, kicking seventy-seven goals for the season, en route to the Coleman Medal. You could say that Brown’s 2007 season was the last great season from a big silverback in the forward line.
Alternatively, An actual Gorilla spends most of the first three hours of its day finding food, before spending the rest of the day sleeping and eating. Which, to be honest, sounds like a pretty great deal. Additionally, it is kind of how I imagined Brownie’s offseason, with the addition of about fifteen VBs. Like the stay-at-home forward, the Gorilla is settled in its natural habitat and chooses not to explore too far.
A Silverback in Brisbane
The first thing we need to think about is how would an AFL forward line operate if you based it around the best forward in the league, and then replaced that forward with an 180kg Silverback Gorilla. While a Gorilla is usually a somewhat passive creature who doesn’t fight for food; the Silverback is a different beast altogether. The Silverback is the head honcho of any troop and can intimidate and cause fear with just one look. Going by that alone, the Silverback would be a hand and glove fit for Jonathan Brown’s role in the side.
The obvious elephant in the room (in this case, a figurative elephant), is the Silverback Gorilla’s goalkicking ability. Gorillas move quadrupedally (on all fours), so it is fair to assume a Gorilla’s ball-skills are not up to AFL standard. While Gorillas are intelligent animals which can learn and teach skills, all signs point to a Gorilla kicking significantly less than Jonathan Brown’s 77 goals in 2007.
However, while the Gorilla may not win the Coleman medal, it would have some benefits over Brown. For instance, I am sure a Silverback Gorilla would find space in the forward line. Lining up on Jonathan Brown was scary enough in 2007, lining up on an actual Gorilla may result in the first reported case of a defender shitting his pants on the field. A Gorilla can reach speeds of up to 40kph, making it the faster than any human at full speed. Imagine 180kg crashing a pack at 40kph. The Lions’ small forwards like Ashley McGrath would have a field day crumming off packs. Additionally, the other forwards would love the vast open space that would result in a wild animal (the Gorilla, not Brown) in the forward line.
The real question is though, would the team be better off? The Brisbane Lions finished tenth position in 2007, two wins off the pace for Finals. The Lions still had a list filled with superstars, albeit in their twilight. They even still had Leigh Matthews as coach. Not even a Coleman medal winning season from Brown was enough to lead the side to finals. While a real Gorilla would be terrifying, the figurative Gorilla in Jono Brown would be more useful in general gameplay.
Jono Brown in the Jungle
If I were to make a list of AFL footballers who could survive and possibly thrive in the depths of a Jungle, Jonathan Brown would probably be towards the top of the list. An outdoors man, Brown would quickly adjust to life in the wilderness. There would be some obvious teething problems adjusting to the African wildlife, compared to outback Australia. Once he understands how basically everything you can see is a threat, I am sure Brownie will be set.
The Silverback Gorilla is the most aggressive and courageous of his troop and can intimidate with a single look. I would be understating it if I said that Brown should be okay in that regard. I can imagine Jonathan Brown leading a troop of Gorillas, passing on his hunting and gathering techniques. As was mentioned earlier, the average Gorilla spends most of its day eating and sleeping. However, when under threat, Silverback males give off a particularly intense smell and emit characteristic sounds to huddle the troop and act as one. I cannot say I have been close enough to Jonathan Brown to comment on the smell. However, Brown was a natural leader on the field and put teams on his back.
Finally, the adult male silverback is the dominant Gorilla and has exclusive breeding rights to the females. Which, in all fairness, if Browny wasn’t happily engaged in 2007 it probably wouldn’t have been that different to a Saturday night in Brisbane.