Kevin Brown wishes that ten years ago he could have known what he knows now.
At the age of 35, Brown’s body isn’t what it used to be. But his brain is stored with knowledge he would have loved to use when he was at his physical peak.
“When I was at Wigan and Huddersfield I’d have good games, but now I’d know why things had gone well,” he says, recalling the early days of his career.
It’s a recurring conundrum for many athletes; the brain knows what to do but the legs don’t follow. For many, it becomes so annoying that they retire in frustration. But for Brown, it is all part of the fun and a challenge to resolve. That’s enabled him to still enjoy the rigours of Rugby League after 17 years at the top.
“I never got injured, never missed a session and everything was easy. You could have a drink and turn up to training the next day.
“But I have to be realistic now, I’m 36 in two months, so I have to be careful to do the right things and I’ve had to educate myself around nutrition. That’s a massive focal point day to day now.
“Until I was coached by Nathan Brown I never knew where I was going right and wrong. But I’m much smarter about the game now and I’ve been lucky to get coaching from the likes of Browny, Denis Betts, Tony Smith and Wayne Bennett. That education has been great for me as a halfback, because it made me understand there’s more to the game than athletic ability.
“I was much quicker than I am now, but you learn when to pass and when to run. I’ve put a lot more into the defensive side of the game now and I understand it much better. With all those things combined, I think I’m a much more rounded player now.”
That has helped Brown seamlessly transition into his role at Salford, taking on an organising role he has had at other clubs in the past, but doing so around players with different skill sets.
“I’ve always been a sort of leader at the teams I’ve played for, so I took a similar sort of leadership role here.
“The role Watto (Ian Watson) wants me to take up is the one that ensures we’re dominating the field position. It’s similar to what I was doing at Warrington, but the difference there was that many people were doing that.
“There were a lot of smart players a Warrington; Kurt Gidley was a great player, but he was similar to me. Stef Ratchford was the same with organising the team and Daryl Clark did the same thing. It was a shame I never got to play with Blake Austin, because we were really working well together in the pre-season.
“But sometimes you need that balance. Niall Evalds’ pace and Morgan (Escaré) who’s coming in, they need to know where to go, but you create the space and if you give them it they’re as good as anyone in the game. Some of the stuff Niall can do is frightening.
“It’s the same with Tui (Lolohea), he’s got all the skills; he can kick, he’s got all the passes left and right, he can run around, through or over you; but he wants someone organising everything, so it’s a good match for us.”
Brown’s enthusiasm for the game shines through. But he knows that, eventually, he’ll have to call it a day. He hopes that, when that time comes, he can stay in the game.
“What that will be I’m still unsure,” he says.
“I’ve spoken to Iestyn (Harris) about going into the agency work; I think I’m a good person to talk to and I’m easily approachable. That appeals to me, while a lot of people tell me I should go into coaching, but I’m not sure yet. I have a lot of friends in the coaching game and I know how much it consumes them. I’d have to have a conversation with my wife about that. It’s 20-hour days and seven-day weeks, so we would have to come to an agreement.
“Everyone said you finish at 30 and I see this as bonus time now. But I still love the sport, the rivalry, and competitiveness and the enjoyment that comes from it.
“When I snapped my Achilles tendon at Warrington they were dark days and I thought I’d played my last game, but I trained hard and a big reason behind carrying on was that I didn’t want to go out like that. I still love every minute, so as long as I’m enjoying it and the coaches are picking me, I want to keep playing.”
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