Alex Johnson: The 2,136 day wait is over

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Alex Johnson celebrates the Swans' 2012 Grand Final victory. Picture: AFL Photos

When Sydney Swans player Alex Johnson accepted his 2012 AFL Premiership medallion, surely the last thought going through his head was that this was the last senior game he would play for six years. At 20 years of age, Johnson already showed signs of being a quality AFL player, evidenced by his selection in every Swans’ game that season. He looked to be a permanent member of Sydney’s defence, with a long career ahead of him.

However, tragedy struck the following year during a pre-season match, when Johnson tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee, a debilitating setback that resulted in him sitting out the entire 2013 season. And that was just the beginning. Johnson has undergone 12 knee operations as part of five consecutive knee reconstructions.

Remarkably, Johnson will make his return with the Swans on Saturday night. When he makes his way onto the Sydney Cricket Ground to play Collingwood, it will mark his first AFL game in 2,136 days.

Earlier this week, in a press conference announcing his return, Johnson spoke about a day he feared would never come, and we saw a glimpse of the resolve that helped him get through multiple rehabs. ”Anyone that’s close to me knows that I wouldn’t have given up until a return to football happened,” Johnson said.

Sydney Swans coach John Longmire, who has coached Johnson since he was drafted, put this fairytale story into perspective, saying, “A lot of the boys that will be running out with him on the weekend, the last time he played an AFL game was when they were in primary school.”

After such a remarkable comeback, we don’t know how well he’ll play. One thing for sure is that Johnson will be doing the thing that he loves and the AFL community will collectively give a respectful nod of approval.

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