The triumphant return of Sydney Swans defender Alex Johnson to AFL last week after nearly six years, five knee reconstructions and 12 operations turned to tragedy in his second comeback game, against Melbourne at the MCG on Sunday, when he injured his “good” right knee.
The story of the popular Swans player, who’d been out of the side for 2,136 days, injured since the 2012 Grand Final, was one of resilience and dedication. One of the sport’s great fairytale is now heartbreak as he appears to have torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Scans today will confirm whether he will need a sixth knee reconstruction.
The injury came halfway through the first quarter as the 26-year-old was moving in to tackle Melbourne’s Jesse Hogan on the boundary and Johnson’s knee buckled as he changed direction.
He was helped from the ground by trainers, the pain and disappointment etched on his face.
At the quarter-time huddle, his teammates came to offer console the player they call AJ. The cruel twist of fate appeared to list the side to a gritty 9-point win over the Demons, 13.9 (87) to 10.18 (78), to keep hopes of a top four finish alive for the Swans.
Fellow defender Nick Smith was also out after quarter-time due to a hamstring injury.
Swans Head of Football Tom Harley told Channel Seven that it look like the “good” knee had gone this time.
“It’s the knee he hasn’t had any trouble with at this stage. It looks like an ACL, which is disappointing obviously for everyone,” he said.
“He’s certainly a much-admired character so it’s disappointing for him.”
Johnson told Seven: “It doesn’t look great” but he wasn’t sure what had happened.
“It’s sort of similar to my first one but we’ll see how we go from here,” he said.
After the game, coach John Longmire said it was a great win by the Swans,”but you come off the ground and Alex has got a suspected ACL on his good side, so everyone’s digesting that, including Alex”.
He praised Johnson for showing “a remarkable amount of resilience”.
“I guess a bit of that might have rubbed off and it needs to continue to rub off for the rest of the year,” he said.
Johnson played 47 AFL games after the Swans picked him in the 2010 NAB AFL Draft. He was delisted last year, but the club used its final draft selection to retain him for this season.
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