SYDNEY’S ALEX JOHNSON TO PLAY FIRST AFL GAME IN SIX YEARS; SWANS 2012 PREMIERSHIP PLAYER UNABLE TO RECOGNISE THE SPORT DUE TO ‘STATE OF THE GAME’
On Saturday, Alex Johnson, a member of the Sydney Swans’ 2012 premiership-winning side, will play his first AFL game since that fateful Grand Final despite telling Australian Sports Weakly that he doesn’t even recognise the sport.
Johnson, 26, is returning from five knee reconstructions 2,136 days after his last game at AFL level - an achievement that is being roundly praised by fans and his peers. However, Johnson has yet another challenge to face, this time in navigating a sport completely unrecognisable to the one he played six years ago due to the STATE OF THE GAME and its devolution.
Speaking exclusively to ASW, Johnson has revealed that from his unique perspective he can confirm that AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan’s fears - that the STATE OF THE GAME is a pressing concern – are justified.
“I’ve heard a lot said in the media, and I mean A LOT, about the need for more rule changes to improve our game and that Gil’s (Gillon McLachlan) plans to trial these rule changes need to come quickly, and I echo those sentiments completely,” said Johnson, who has overcome 12 knee surgeries to once again play AFL football.
“I guess I’m sort of like a human time capsule here, and I can tell you that the differences between my last game and my next one are huge.
“First of all, Horse (Sydney coach John Longmire) has had to try to equip me to deal with the congestion in modern footy, which has been tough. Then, after I’ve got my head around that, the other boys have taught me how to avoid those large pools of acid that keep sprouting up around the field nowadays. That never happened in my day.
“And if it’s not the acid pools, then there’s the condors that circle above, nosediving to strike you with their talons at every stoppage. It’s brutal out there.”
Fellow teammate Ben Ronke, who only made his AFL debut this season, told ASW that it would be a great morale boost to see Johnson playing once again.
“He’s great around the club telling all us youngsters stories about the days of yore when the STATE OF THE GAME was in much better nick,” said Ronke.
“After training he often tells us tales of a time when AFL football was a pleasurable experience to watch and play, in the years before used syringes scattered the field and before one member of each losing side would be publicly executed after the match.
“To have him play along side me – well, I’m gonna feel five foot taller, like I can run twice as fast, like I can jump twice as high.
“Which will come in handy when I have to jump the lava river across half-forward.”
Sydney play Collingwood at the SCG on Saturday at 7.25pm local time.