A Marist-Western Suburbs and Riccarton Knights junior who won a CRL premiership and represented Canterbury Bulls as a teenager, Lewis Brown went on to play 198 NRL games and 15 Tests for New Zealand after earning a belated professional opportunity with the Warriors.
Brown won selection in the New Zealand Secondary Schools squad in 2003 and featured in the Knights’ Grand Final victory and scored a try for Canterbury against West Coast the following season. The versatile 18-year-old turned out for the Bulls twice during the 2005 Bartercard Cup before heading across the Tasman.
He played for Griffith, a feeder team for Cronulla Sharks, and Sydney Rooters’ Jersey Flegg team, then gained a further grounding as part of Balmain-Ryde and Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup sides.
Signing with the Warriors in late-2008, Brown – adept at centre, hooker and in the back-row – overcame a foot injury to make his NRL debut in 2009, featuring in 15 top-grade games for the club as a 22-year-old rookie.
Brown became a permanent member of the much-improved Warriors’ line-up at second-row or centre in 2010, scoring seven tries in 23 games as they finished fifth. He was picked in the Kiwis’ Four Nations squad but was not called upon by coach Stephen Kearney at the end of the season, instead coming off the bench in New Zealand Māori’s 18-all draw with England.
A Test call-up eventuated at the next available opportunity, however, with interchange Brown brilliantly laying on a try for fellow Canterbury product and debutant Matt Duffie in New Zealand’s 20-10 Anzac Test loss to Australia in 2011.
Playing most of the 2011 NRL season at centre, Brown scored one of the most famous tries in the club’s history – diving over out wide to seal a preliminary final upset of Melbourne following Shaun Johnson’s weaving cross-field run. The Warriors went down 24-10 to Manly in the Grand Final a week later.
Brown played four post-season Tests for the Kiwis on their Four Nations tour, all at centre.
The nuggetty 26-year-old left the Warriors after 84 games at the end of 2012, reuniting with former Warriors coach Ivan Cleary at Penrith. A consistent performer in the backline or in the pack for the Panthers in 2013-14, he ended a three-year international hiatus at the end of the latter campaign and played a key role as a bench utility in New Zealand’s Four Nations triumph.
Brown scored his only Test try in the 30-12 thrashing of Australia in Brisbane and came off the pine again as the Kiwis outlasted the Kangaroos 22-18 in the Wellington-hosted final.
Brown wound up a 66-game stint with Penrith in 2015 before coming off the bench twice against England on the Kiwis’ end-of-year tour to the Old Dart.
Linking with Manly, Brown played five Tests for New Zealand in 2016, starting at hooker in the Anzac Test loss at Newcastle and making his last appearance in the black-and-white jersey as the Kiwis went down to the Kangaroos in the Four Nations final at Anfield in Liverpool.
The veteran’s ability to plug multiple gaps on the team sheet helped the Sea Eagles return to playoffs in 2017, but he could only manage two first-grade games in 2018 (after playing at least 21 in the previous eight seasons) and called time on a 10-year NRL career in early-2019, aged 32.
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Brown was later a regular on Sky Sports NZ’s NRL and domestic rugby league coverage as a commentator and panellist.
NEW ZEALAND (2010-11, 2014-16)
15 Tests – 1 try (4 points)
-2010 Four Nations squad
-2011 Four Nations tour
-2014 Four Nations tour
-2015 Kiwis tour of England
-2016 Four Nations tour