‘It’s awesome to be enjoying footy again’

Sydney ready for GWS clash2:08

AFL: As GWS have risen in 2017, their neighbours Sydney have fallen. For Saturday’s Derby, a re-match of last years qualifying final, the Swans are hoping a handful of big name inclusions will trigger a change in fortunes.

Alex Johnson has his first run in 906 days after his fifth knee reconstruction. Picture: Gregg Porteous

IF THE 0-4 Swans are looking for inspiration (and they are) they need look no further than their teammate Alex Johnson who is just weeks away from an incredible comeback — five years after his last senior game, the 2012 Grand Final.

His return after 12 knee surgeries, including five reconstructions, is the kind of inspiration the beleaguered club needs.

The Swans have a habit of finding another gear when rallying around players suffering hard times.

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When Adam Goodes walked away from the game in the middle of the 2015 season the Swans responded in his absence by downing Adelaide at the SCG by 52 points.

Kurt Tippett played with a broken hand and Lance Franklin with an injured back which forced him to miss the next three weeks.

Last year when Kieren Jack’s family troubles became public in the lead-up to his 200th game the Swans lifted (as did Jack) to beat Geelong at Simonds Stadium for just the second time in the past 17 years.

Alex Johnson’s knee has been operated upon many times. Picture: Gregg Porteous

Alex Johnson’s knee has been operated upon many times. Picture: Gregg PorteousSource:News Corp Australia

Their previous win at the Cattery came immediately after Jarrad McVeigh and his wife Clementine’s baby daughter Luella passed away in 2011, ending a 1462-day unbeaten run by the Cats at home.

Sydney’s caring culture helped Johnson through his ordeal. Last year he won the Barry Round award for best clubman.

“I can feel the energy the other guys give me,” Johnson told the Daily Telegraph.

“They are pretty excited to have me back and that means a lot to me. It gives me a lot of confidence.

“I’m looking forward to training each day. It’s why you play football to train with your mates every day. It is awesome to be enjoying footy again.”

To win a club award without playing a game in five years is some achievement but it’s not hard to see why. He is a selfless individual who credits a large part of his return to the people around him.

Alex Johnson after injuring his knee for the first time in 2013.

Alex Johnson after injuring his knee for the first time in 2013.Source:News Limited

“My family and friends have been huge for me,” he said.

“The club as a whole have supported me tremendously and Rhyce Shaw in particular, Rhyce has driven me through this whole process. It’s been a collective which have really helped me.”

Johnson has been training with the rest of the team for the last couple of weeks and will begin contact work in the next fortnight. He will need another 5-6 weeks of training before he will be considered for selection in the NEAFL.

To simply play again after five years will be a monumental achievement but it won’t be enough for the 25-year-old, he wants to be back playing in the big time.

“It has always been the goal in my mind, to play senior AFL again. All of this training has been stepping stones along the way. Once I get back playing NEAFL it will be a matter of building up from there and seeing what I can do from there.”

KNEE TO KNOW

ALEX JOHNSON’S TOUGH TIMES

MARCH 2013: Ruptures anterior cruciate ligament in a pre-season game. Has traditional knee reconstruction but three months into rehabilitation suffers soreness and inflammation. Arthroscope reveals the graft has failed.

AUGUST 2013: Undergoes LARS surgery — using synthetic fibres — and begins rehabilitation.

MARCH 2014: Returns to match play but 10 minutes into a reserves game, jumps and ruptures the LARS graft. Clean-out of the knee because of concerns of infection, takes antibiotics and goes six months without an ACL.

SEPTEMBER 2014: LARS operation No.2 but five weeks later the knee blows up, so more surgery to remove the ligament follows.

MARCH 2015: Bone graft — the bone tunnels they use to connect the ligament to the tibia and femur were too large so he needs another operation.

NOVEMBER 2015: LARS surgery No.3 — only lasts two weeks before his knee becomes too inflamed. Has two-stage clean-out in early December.

FEBRUARY-MAY 2016: Two-stage traditional knee reconstruction.

Originally published as ‘It’s awesome to be enjoying footy again’

SOURCE: newsnow sport