Johnson lines up for number 308
Saturday, 31st May, 2014
By Ethan James
Veteran Brett Johnson is about to become the most capped player in North Bulldogs Football Club history.
He will pass Rod Crampton’s mark of 307 A Grade appearances against West at Jubilee Oval today.
Johnson said a conversation with the man whose mark he will surpass convinced him to play on this year.
“I thought I was done last year but this was close enough to do,” he explained.
“I had a good chat with ‘Cramps’ and he said keep going and while you can do it, you may as well do it.
“We’ve been counting it down for the last couple of weeks.”
Johnson has seen players come and go in his 20 years on the field but rates a few above and beyond the rest.
South great Billy Dolan, who recently played his final match, was the first that came to mind.
“His skills were his strength and he had the experience to go with it in the SANFL league, even though he’s not at the club, you still learn from those types of players,” Johnson said.
“Phil Neal is another, we’ve gone through it together the last 20 years and always seemed to line up on each other.
“In regards to Central, I always had trouble with Michael Ford. He was always with you and really tight on you.”
Johnson started his senior career with the Bulldogs in 1994 - a fair chunk of his current teammates were barely a twinkle in their father’s eye.
“I’m the old man in the group now and it’s amazing just what the kids have been able to do,” he said, speaking of his side’s run of five flags in the last seven years.
“Playing in the centre with guys like Jayden (Kelly) and Codie (Howard), they carry me through games a bit now.
“I still reckon I’ve got the best seat in the house when it comes to watching the game.”
Johnson’s relaxed demeanour and laid back attitude belie the multitude of personal and team accomplishments.
Aside from seven flags, he has claimed a Lionel Johnson Medal, three Mail Medals, five club Best and Fairest awards as well as best on ground in the 2000 Grand Final against West.
It’s a fair trophy cabinet to say the least.
And although now in the twilight of his career, you get the impression that he is fitter than blokes half his age.
“You’ve got to enjoy your footy that is the secret. Once you do your training that’s 90% and then it comes down to how you approach the game.
“It may seem to some that I take the easy approach but I’ve been around long enough to know how it all works.
“The league has changed but it has always improved each year I’ve played.
“The standard has gotten quicker and there aren’t as many biffs and bashes these days.
“But it definitely feels fast I can tell you that.”
The club is holding a function at Bulldogs HQ tonight to celebrate the milestone.
“It’s all a bit overwhelming to be honest,” Johnson said.
“I’d just like to thank the club, everyone I played with and against and my wonderful family.”
Johnson is one of eight players in the 300-plus club, alongside Brett Morris, Neal, Wayne Walker, Peter Johns, Allen Staker, Crampton, Randy Stenhouse and John Campbell.
As for the question of retirement, the North stalwart imagines that this year will be his last.
“Sunday is now my couch day to recover, you wait around waiting for the AFL to come on,” he laughed.
“This will be it I think. The end has got to come soon.”