Ipswich has been fortunate over the years to have produced many sporting champions.
In sports such as rugby league, hockey and athletics “I come from Ipswich” has been heard regularly in the representative change-rooms.
What is rare amongst our sporting greats is to find a sportsperson who has played at the elite level in two different sports.
One such local icon is Brassall’s Johnny Brown, who not only has a framed Australian rugby league jersey he also has a photo of himself sitting alongside Wally Grout in the Queensland Sheffield Shield cricket team.
Johnny was one of those gifted athletes who could excel in any sport.
“Sport has always been my greatest love and it has been good to me,” Johnny said the other day on the eve of his 80th birthday celebration.
“My dad was a sporting fanatic, and I just inherited my love of all sports from him.
“He had me playing rugby league with West End when I was just four years of age and after that it all became an obsession.”
Johnny ended up at Ipswich Grammar school and soon became one of their elite sporting students playing both cricket and rugby.
It was no surprise that when he left school, he would make his mark in the Queensland ranks and was snapped up by Norths to play in the state rugby league competition.
That culminated in 1969 when he ran onto Lang Park in front of 30,000 to lead the side to a 14-2 win over Valleys.
In the same year he was named as the best and fairest player of the competition and received the Rothman’s Medal.
Many believed the live-wire halfback had the potential to play for Australia and a year later they were proved right when he was selected in the 1970 Kangaroo Touring squad to travel to England and France.
“One of my biggest disappointments in sport was on that tour because while I got to run onto the field in France in an Australian jumper it wasn’t regarded as an official match,” he said.
“It turned out I was the only player on the tour not to play in at least one official match, but I still got the honour to be an Australian rugby league squad member and I have my framed Aussie jumper to prove it.”
In the off-season from league Johnny was making his name as a talented opening batsman and was selected in the Queensland Sheffield shield team playing six first-class matches in the 60’s.
He said the greatest thing about his multi-sport playing career was the many enduring friendships he made along the way.
Only recently he attended a reunion of the North’s 1969 premiership team at the Caxton Hotel in the city.
He was one of 12 who relived and retold their memorable win.