Melbourne Demons champion Ben Brown has finally revealed why his AFL jersey bears No.50 – and it’s got nothing to do with superstition or emulating a great of the game he looked up to as a kid.
While jersey numbers in AFL are not assigned by position, players rarely venture beyond the 30s when choosing the number on the back of their guernsey.
That makes Brown’s number – which he also wore at North Melbourne – stand out from the pack.
Brown has worn the No.50 on his back since his junior footy days and continues to don it with pride with the Melbourne Demons
As he prepared to play his 150th AFL game this weekend, Brown revealed the reason why he not only chose the No.50, but has stuck with it since he was a kid.
‘I was actually quite late to join my first footy club, I was always played school footy growing up and wore my uncle’s number, James Manson, who played at Collingwood and Fitzroy,’ he told 3AW.
‘He wore No.30 so I wore that growing up playing school footy and when I went to my first footy club, the Devonport footy club in my home town, I was a bit late to pre-season because I was playing basketball at the time.
‘I rolled in and the only jumper that fit me at the right size was the No.50. So I went yup, that’s my number.
Brown will line up for his 150th AFL match this weekend in a decorated career that has seen him kick 327 AFL goals and win a premiership in 2021
‘Every club I have moved to since I have asked for it. I thought it is a nice, even number right there in the middle and no one is going to fight me for No.50 so I can have it wherever I go.
‘So that’s the reason, I thought it would be nice and clean to have the same one as I went on.’
There have been many examples of AFL players choosing jersey numbers for superstitious or sentimental reasons over the years. One of the other great stories of a current player choosing a very specific jersey number belongs to Daniel Rioli.
Daniel Rioli with the 2020 premiership trophy. He is the great-nephew of club great Maurice Rioli and proudly wears his No.17 on his back
He wears the No.17 for Richmond to honour his late great-uncle Maurice Rioli, who won a premiership, two Jack Dyer Medals and a Norm Smith Medal wearing the famous number.
The No.17 was also worn by club legend Jack Dyer himself back in the 1930s and 40s.
There is a great yarn in the lower grades as well surrounding opinionated Richmond legend Mal Brown.
The story goes he chose a high number when he came out of retirement to play for Claremont in the WAFL. He copped a blast from his coach for it, so the next week he turned out wearing the No.100 jersey.
If you find yourself on the rookie list at Essendon, it might pay off to choose the No.43 jersey. Both Dean Rioli and recently retired club legend Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti forced their way into the first-grade team from the rookie list wearing that number.
Likewise at the Hawks, the No.35 jersey has been a magic tonic ever since champion Gary Ablett Snr first pulled it on. Three-time premier James ‘Freak’ Morrissey also wore the No.35 along with the likes skippers Richie Vandenberg and Jarryd Roughead and champion players Grant Birchall and Ryan Burton.
Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti broke out of reserve grade and the Bombers rookie wearing the No.43 jersey to become an AFL icon.
However, if you don’t get the No.35 jersey at Hawthorn, don’t make the mistake of thinking that No.36 will do – it carries a terrible curse.
The 39 men that have worn No.36 in Hawthorn’s history have combined for just 176 games – 21 of them never even got a debut. Ricky Nixon, Matthew Dent and even former AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou have all felt the sting of the No.36 curse.
Peter O’Donohue played his first game in the 36 and injured himself, forced to wait another five years to play his second VFL match. The number was retired, but revived in 1950 in a season during which the Hawks failed to register a single win.
Both Michael Clarke and the late, great Shane Warne wore the No.23 which was made famous by Michael Jordan in the 1990s.
There are certain numbers that athletes from all codes love to fight over as well. The No.23 made famous by Michael Jordan in the 1990s is a standout.
The likes of LeBron James, David Beckham, Don Mattingly and even the late, great Shane Warne – who later handed it to Michael Clarke – have all worn the iconic No.23 in their careers.