Steve J returns to nest
WANGARATTA AFL product Steve Johnson has relished the transition from player to coach this year but still admits there are times he wishes he could still play on the big stage.
Johnson retired at the end of 2017 after 293 games with Geelong and GWS, which included three premierships and a Norm Smith Medal during his 14-year stint with the Cats.
Following his retirement, Sydney swooped on the former Wangaratta and Murray Bushranger, signing him as their forwards coach, working under senior coach John Longmire.
After such a long career, often in the spotlight with his mercurial ability in front of goal, Johnson said the move onto the sidelines had been mostly smooth, although the competitive juices remain.
“You wish you could play forever, which is why I basically did until I couldn’t walk,” he said.
“I get out there occasionally and get involved in training which gets the juices going but ‘Horse’ (Longmire) pulls me up before I knock any of the boys over or get them injured.
“I wish I could keep playing but the body is completely shot so I’m enjoying this side of things.
“I always thought that at the end of my career when I finished as a player, I wanted to stay involved.
“I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to move over to the Swans, which is a great club.
“If you can’t play then coaching is the next best thing if that’s your passion so I feel extremely fortunate I can do that.”
Johnson was back at the Norm Minns Oval on Saturday morning and took Wangaratta’s senior and thirds groups through an 80-minute session where he oversaw a number of skill-based drills.
With the assistance of coach Luke Morgan, Johnson had the full attention of the group and challenged them to improve with each drill.
The club has always held out hope of Johnson one day pulling on the black and white jumper again, however, if that doesn’t happen, they were rapt to see him back in a training singlet at the very least.
Johnson said he was more than happy to give up his time to help out, saying he still held plenty of fond memories from his time at the club.
“The club has asked me to come back and play a couple of times but I’ve had to put that on the backburner because of my body,” he said.
“I let them know I was coming back for Christmas and if they had a session I would be happy to help out.
“I’ve always loved this club so it was good to get back involved.”
BACK HOME: Wangaratta AFL star Steve Johnson (second from right) takes time out from training at Wangaratta on Saturday morning with (L-R) Michael Bordignon, senior coach Luke Morgan and reigning best and fairest winner Joe Richards.