Max Gawn has always done things differently. And in leading the Melbourne Football Club to its first AFL flag in 57 years this September, that way of being has paid off.
Ten years ago, in the winter of 2011, a pimply, pubescent string bean named Max Gawn loped to the front of the Melbourne Football Club boardroom. Beside him there stood an older man with a red-and-blue cap on his head, masking surgical bandages from an ongoing battle with brain cancer. The metastatic melanoma inside Jim Stynes’ skull would ultimately kill him – within months, in fact – but at this moment the retired Demons legend and club president had something to offer the 19-year-old, at the presentation of his jumper, only days before his senior debut.
“Wouldn’t it be great to get someone who’s doing it a bit … differently? I did it a bit differently – why can’t you? You’re a different sort of guy. You’re your own man,” encouraged the former champion, in his purring Irish brogue. “You do it your way, son.”
A decade later, doing things his way is the very thread that stitches together the extraordinary career of five-time All-Australian ruckman and 2021 AFL premiership captain Max Gawn. This season Gawn did the unthinkable, ending the longest drought in Australian sport in emphatic and devastating fashion, leading the Melbourne Football Club to its first flag in 57 years. Along the way, Gawn also offered a welcome off-field antidote to the perennial whinge that professional sport – the anodyne AFL, in particular – has no real “characters” anymore…
Photography by Josh Robenstone