Black was a midfielder with a reputation for hard work and skill. He had the ability to get under the pack to retrieve the ball as well as deliver it with precision to teammates.
He was drafted by the Brisbane Lions in 1997 from the East Fremantle Football Club, and he debuted in the first game of the 1998 season and quickly became one of Brisbane's best players. He won the 2002 Brownlow Medal, the 2003 Norm Smith Medal and the 2001, 2002, and 2006 Merrett-Murray Medals awarded to the best and fairest player with the Brisbane Lions and three premiership medallions he received as a part of the Lions' hat-trick of premierships in 2001, 2002 and 2003. Black and fellow Brisbane midfielders Michael Voss, Nigel Lappin and Jason Akermanis became one of the most well regarded midfield combinations in the league during that time, and were known as the 'Fab Four'.
Black was impressive during the 1998 pre-season and earned his senior debut in Round 1 against the Western Bulldogs at the Gabba. He played nine senior matches and averaged over 12 disposals during his debut season and took out the Club’s Best First Year Player award. In 1999, he consolidated himself as an automatic senior selection and built a reputation for winning the ball in contested situations. He collected 20 possessions and kicked two goals against Geelong in Round 9 which earned him an AFL Rising Star Nomination; he ultimately finished third in the award behind Sydney’s Adam Goodes and Adelaide’s Brett Burton. He played 22 matches for the season and averaged close to 19 disposals and won the Lions' Rookie of the Year award for the second consecutive season. In 2000, he averaged 23.9 disposals per game, led the competition in centre clearances on a per game basis and finished second behind Geelong’s Garry Hocking in hard-ball gets.
Black became one of the league's elite midfielders from 2001. Over the following four years, Black and the Lions contested four Grand Finals, winning the premiership in 2001, 2002 and 2003, and finishing runner-up in 2004. During that time, Black was part of a Brisbane midfield combination which is considered to be one of the best in the league's history: Black, Michael Voss, Jason Akermanis and Nigel Lappin, who became known collectively as the "Fab Four".
In 2001, Black played every match for the season, led the AFL in tackles and averaged a team-high 24.6 possessions. He was joint Club Champion with Captain Michael Voss, was named as the starting ruck-rover in the All-Australian team, finished 5th in the AFLPA's Most Valuable Player award, and won the Herald Sun Player of the Year award. He represented Australia for the first and only time of his career in the 2001 International Rules Series against Ireland.
In 2002, Black won the Brownlow Medal, polling 25 votes to beat second placed Josh Francou by four votes and comparisons were made between him and dual Brownlow Medallist Greg Williams because of his outstanding peripheral vision and ability to get the contested ball. He earned All-Australian selection and won the Merrett-Murray Medal for the second consecutive season. He was strong again in 2003, and won the Norm Smith Medal as best on ground in the Grand Final with a career-best 39 possessions – the most ever recorded by any player in a Grand Final.
In 2004, Black became a vice-captain of the Lions, and he won All-Australian selection for the third time in his career. At the end of the season, Black had played a sequence of 107 consecutive matches for Brisbane, before a suspension in the violent 2004 AFL Grand Final ended the sequence.
Black's 2005 season was interrupted by injury, but in 2006 he played every match, and won the third Merrett-Murray Medal of his career. At the beginning of 2007, Black was named as named one of the four Lions co-captains, replacing the retiring captain Michael Voss. In 2007 and 2008, Black continued to be Brisbane's premier midfielder, and he finished second in the Brownlow Medal in both seasons. He earned Brisbane Lions Life Membership at the end of his tenth season of service. He was also the Courier Mail Player of the Year in 2008, and was runner-up in the 2008 Merrett-Murray medal.
In 2009, new coach Michael Voss named Jonathan Brown as the sole captain of the club, and Black remained in the leadership group. He had another consistent season in 2010, finishing second in the Merrett-Murray Medal. In 2012, Black played his 300th AFL game, becoming the first player in league history to win a Brownlow Medal, a Norm Smith Medal, a Premiership Medal and play 300 games.
In 2013, Black equalled Marcus Ashcroft's record for the most games played for the Brisbane Bears/Lions playing his 318th game.
On 18 October 2013, Black announced his retirement from the AFL.