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AFL dream remains for AJ

Alex Johnson joins Northern Blues Ex-Swan Alex Johnson has joined the Northern Blues VFL side as Head of Development.

NO ONE could begrudge Alex Johnson if he was to simply throw in the towel.

After six years without footy due to repeat knee injuries, Johnson finally returned to the field late last season. However, his incredible journey was stopped in its tracks in just his second game back, when the luckless defender was cruelled by yet another ACL injury.

It was a story that devastated not only Johnson and the Swans, but the AFL community.

However, every chapter in Johnson's well-told footy career hasn't yet been written.

While the former premiership Swan was offered the chance to remain at the club in a development role, he opted for a different path – a path that could keep his career alive.

 

With his options open and with several job offers on the table both in Victoria and interstate, Johnson elected to sign for Carlton's VFL affiliate the Northern Blues in a dual role where he could both play and assume a position as the club's head of development.

It was a decision motivated by the idea of one day returning to the AFL.

"I definitely haven't given up on my AFL dream," Johnson told AFL.com.au.

"I think a lot of people would sit there and say I'm an idiot and that I should give up. But I've had people writing me off for a long time now. I proved them wrong and I played against Collingwood.

"I wasn't out of my comfort zone or out of my depth playing at AFL level again, so this gives me the best opportunity to get back, play good enough footy in the VFL and see how we go from there.

"If it doesn't work out, it doesn't work out. But I'm only 26 and I've got a long life ahead of me, so I may as well give it another crack for 12 months and see what comes of it."

 

Although Johnson had lived through the highs and lows of footy already, he admits there were dark moments in the days after his latest ACL setback in August.

The thought of quitting entered his mind. But it was immediately replaced by an even bigger willingness to get back on the park and play at the highest level once again.

"It's never great when you do it, especially after what I'd been through to get back," he said.

"I had the highs of the Collingwood game, which is what I'd dreamt of and put so much work into to get back to playing at AFL level again. To go down against Melbourne and with the way I did it … it was hard to come to terms with in the first few days.

"But I sat down and took a look at it in a different way. I thought it's my good knee, if I can get it right, there's no reason why I can't continue playing footy."

Johnson had been offered the chance to stay in Sydney upon being delisted by the club in September, working with its NEAFL team in the development role he had undertaken on a part-time basis last year, but made the tough decision to return to his native Victoria.

 

Despite saying he was "forever indebted" to the Swans for the manner in which they cared for him throughout his recovery, he made that choice with the idea of playing again in mind.

"A few things changed at the club a little bit with personnel and stuff like that," he said.

"The big one for me was that they didn't offer me a playing role at all. It was a purely development role and I wanted to play.

"I'm only 26, so I feel as though I've got more to give in the AFL. Getting back down here and playing in a competition like the VFL gives me the best shot at doing that."

The Northern Blues – and their home base at Ikon Park – won Johnson over.

Sign up to become a Northern Blues member today.

He has been using Carlton's facilities while in rehab, began running in early December and will see his surgeon after the Christmas break to ensure his recovery remains on track.

Should he be given the all-clear by the medical professionals, he's hopeful of following in Tyson Goldsack's footsteps and returning to the field in time for the start of next season.

"There's no reason why I couldn't come back as quickly as Tyson did and play six or seven months later," Johnson said.

"Once the season rolls around, it'll be seven or eight months. We'll go from there, but I don't want to miss too much footy in 2019."