The Gympie Times was ahead of the times. On 22 August 2020, in the midst of Covid, the newspaper’s Facebook page posed the question: “Will Shadeau Brain be Gympie’s next big name at AFL?”

It was a link to a story published the following day that introduced a young lad born in Shepparton who split his youth between regional Victoria and the Sunshine Coast, was living on a farm in the outskirts of Gympie at the time, and had broken into the Noosa Tigers senior side.

‘Meet Shadeau Brain. Remember the name,’ wrote then Times reporter Matty Holdsworth. “He’s a 16-year-old and one of 13 kids who is carving up against seniors as the Noosa Tigers next best thing.”

Fast forward 982 days and Brain will make his AFL debut for the Brisbane Lions against the Adelaide Crows at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday afternoon.

It’s a fantastic story about a Lions Academy graduate who will be the first ‘Shadeau’ to play in the AFL when he pulls on the #34 jumper to become the Lions’ third debutant in eight days.

Even before he was drafted his was dubbed a cult hero on the AFL website because of his unique name – like Phoenix Spicer, who was drafted to North Melbourne in 2020 to play six games, and Irving Mosquito, an Essendon draftee in 2018 who played four games.

Shadeau is a name which, according to the Urban Dictionary, means: “A very unlucky  person or a very unlucky event that has happened to someone”.

But he would argue he’s been anything but unlucky in a family in which, to an outsider, one of the biggest challenges would be just to name the children of Greg and Michelle Brain in order.

From the youngest, it goes Wispa, Joc, Shadeau, Wynta, Jasper, Forest, Jed, Zac, Brittany, Whilloe, Carrissa, James and Brendan.

And where did Shadeau come from? “I think it's got a bit of French in it, but not sure if they meant it. I think they ran out of names when they got to 11, 12 and 13," the 11-born sibling once joked.

It’s a family that has split its sporting interest. The boys played football and the girls played netball.

Greg Brain is from Finley in the Riverina region of NSW, a proud football town which boasts among its sporting greats  Geelong’s Tom Hawkins, who will equal the club games record this weekend, Hawthorn 300-game Brownlow Medallist Shane Crawford and 575-game St.Kilda, Hawthorn and Richmond coach Allan Jeans.

“Dad played pretty high level football, he played up in Nightcliff in Darwin, played a bit of footy around country Victoria and coached Victoria’s under-18s one year. He’s been a pretty high level coach and footballer,” Brain explained.

A Friday 13th baby, born on Friday 13 February 2004, Brain began his football journey with the Under-8’s at Noosa, playing there until the family moved to the Riverina in his early teenage years. But at 16 he moved with the family back to Queensland and was quickly added to the Lions Academy.

Brain will be the 12th player to wear #34 for Brisbane after it was worn a Fitzroy record 98 times by Grant Lawrie. He started in 1978 in #48 (9 games) switched to #34 in 1979 (3 games) and wore #3 from 1980-82 (44) before finishing with the club from 1983-88 in #34 (95 games).

Previous Brisbane #34s in order have been Rick Norman (1 game), David Ogg (9), Ashley Green (18), Steven Lawrence (34), Scott Bamford (24), 2002 premiership player Aaron Shattock (57), Jayden Attard (5), Albert Proud (2), Bradd Dalziell (15), Jesse O’Brien (17) and fellow Sunshine Coaster Jono Freeman (14).

He’ll be the seventh ‘Brain’ on the AFL’s AFL player all-time. It is a group headed by 1933 South Melbourne premiership player Terry Brain Snr (141 games – 1928-37) after St.Kilda’s Horrie Brain (11 games – 1907), Hawthorn’s Jack Brain (58 games – 1941-48), South Melbourne’s Terry Brain Jnr (7 games – 1958-61) and Peter Brain (1 game – 1961) and Fitzroy’s Roy Brain (13 games – 1972-74).

Described in modern football vernacular as a “hybrid forward/midfielder”, Brain joined the Lions as a Category B rookie on 30 November 2022 after a string of strong performances in the club’s VFL side and with the Allies at the Australian Under 18 championships that year.

Having shared a house last year with teammates Will Ashcroft and Jaspa Fletcher, he will be the just the second Brisbane player after Ashcroft to debut at Adelaide Oval.

Previously five Brisbane players debuted at the old Football Park in Adelaide - Brett Voss in 1997, Daniel Merrett and Tom Logan (together) and fellow Sunshine Coaster Josh Drummond in 2005, and Joel Patfull  in 2006.

Brain’s debut on Sunday afternoon will mark the first time in seven years the Lions, who debuted Bruce Reville and Logan Morris last week, have debuted three players in two weeks. The last time was in 2017 when Hugh McCluggage and Tom Berry debuted in Round 3 and Cedric Cox followed in Round 4.

But only last week Brain was given a fair clue his first game might not be far away – in a real rarity for a rookie he signed a two-year contract extension even he’d played at the elite level.


Lions football boss Danny Daly said at the time Brain deserved the extension on the basis of his hard work and on-field performance.

“It's always a great feeling to re-sign any player, particularly when they are a Queensland local who has come through our Brisbane Lions Academy,” Daly said.

“He is a player with natural talent and a bit of ‘x-factor' who has shown some promising development in the 18 months he has been with us and we look forward to what is ahead for him.”

The Lions will head to Adelaide this weekend with an aggregate 17-24 record in the SA capital (including Gather Round games at Mt.Barker and Norwood), a 5-5 split under coach Chris Fagan, and a 3-9 record at Adelaide Oval.

They beat Port Adelaide at the famous cricketing ground by 48 points in 2019, and Adelaide by 32 points in 2021 and by 36 points in 2022.

South Australian-born Lachie Neale holds the Brisbane possession record in SA – he had 46 possessions in a qualifying final at Adelaide Oval against Melbourne during Covid times in 2021.

Michael Voss and Jonathan Brown share the club record for most goals in a game in SA – Voss kicked a career-best seven against Adelaide at Football Park in 2004, and Brown seven against Port Adelaide at Football Park in 2006.

Joe Daniher (twice) and Charlie Cameron share the club record at Adelaide Oval with five goals.

Simon Black (13), Voss (9), Dayne Zorko (8), Brown (7) and Neale (6) have polled most Brownlow Medal votes for Brisbane in Adelaide, while at just Adelaide Oval it’s Neale (6) from Zorko (5), Zac Bailey (5) and Jarryd Lyons (5).