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1736 days on, luckless Swan set to take the field

Football

Sydney AFL defender Alex Johnson will make his long awaited comeback tomorrow, after recovering from a fifth knee reconstruction which has prevented him playing a senior game for 1736 days.

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Johnson, 25, last played an AFL match in Sydney’s 2012 grand final win over Hawthorn. It was the 45th match of a senior career that started in 2011.

He played in a couple of pre-season games in 2013 and briefly in a NEAFL match in 2014 and will make his comeback in a NEAFL clash with Canberra Demons in Canberra tomorrow.

Some of the Swans playing in tonight’s AFL game against Melbourne at the MCG plan to rush to Canberra to see their much admired teammate’s return to action.

His mental resilience is as strong as I’ve ever seen…

Johnson’s terrible run started when he ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2013 pre-season competition.

He has endured 12 operations and a rare infection but the Swans have stuck with him throughout his ordeals.

“It is just something within me that I have been able to keep positive and keep everything in perspective,” Johnson said.

“There are a lot of people a lot worse off than me in the world and I have still had a really good job over the last few years, where I come to work with really good people and keep fit for a living.

“I have always had that goal of returning to the field and that is what I want to achieve.”

Swans’ coach John Longmire consider’s Johnson’s story – as potentially the first player to return to the AFL after five knee reconstructions – as one of the most inspiring in the game.

“I haven’t seen anything quite like Alex’s journey – he’s had five knee reconstructions and some pretty down times,” Longmire said.

“Sitting down with him and seeing him a couple of times with the infections he’s had in his knee, and what that’s done to him not only in a football sense but more in a human sense, has been really heartbreaking, but also inspiring in the way he’s been able to deal with it.

“His mental resilience is as strong as I’ve ever seen and his ability to put the setbacks to one side and keep concentrating on the future has been at an incredibly high level.”

Johnson, who previously played in the No.34 guernsey, will for the first time wear No.2 – the number previously worn by Rhyce Shaw, now the Swans’ NEAFL coach.

-AAP

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