Steve J re­turns to nest

Wangaratta Chronicle - - Front Page - BY JEREMY WIL­SON jwil­[email protected] ne­me­

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.”

PHOTO: Jeremy Wil­son

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.

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