Johnson back in Freo fold
SUSPENDED Fremantle utility Michael Johnson has addressed his teammates after serving a two-week exile from the club, and captain Matthew Pavlich says he is now “back in the fold”.
Johnson addressed the club’s leadership group on Monday morning before joining his teammates for a light recovery session at Fremantle Oval.
The 25-year-old is unavailable for AFL selection until round 14, but Pavlich said it was important for Johnson to be back at the club and around his teammates.
“It’s nice to have him back and we’re here to support him,” Pavlich said from Fremantle Oval on Monday.
“He understands he’s got a fair bit of work to do both on the track, but certainly off it, to make sure he gains the trust and respect back from the board and [playing] group.
“We’re not here to divulge exactly what happened in a private setting between Michael and the leadership group – it’s not for public dialogue – (but) we met, and it’s dealt with.
“It’s really important for him to understand that he’s back in the fold now.”
Pavlich said Johnson, who will not be replaced in Fremantle’s leadership group, had made commitments to his teammates and he would be expected to follow the club’s “behavioural values”.
“Now it’s words, but we want to see actions and we’re here to support him through those actions,” Pavlich said.
“I think for Michael, he is taking responsibility for his actions. He understands it’s really disappointing (but) this is one of the steps in him getting his life right and his football life back in order.
“He’s still obviously pretty flat and devastated and disappointed in his own actions.”
Pavlich, who remained in phone contact with Johnson during his ban from the club, said the past fortnight had been one of the most testing emotionally of his three-and-a-half seasons as skipper.
However, the players defied the off-field drama surrounding them to notch a gutsy road win against the Sydney Swans in round nine before surging to outright second on the AFL ladder on Sunday with a 61-point win over North Melbourne.
“[It’s been] challenging from an emotional perspective, but challenging to make sure the guys remained really focused as well,” Pavlich said.
“The club handled it with as much aplomb as they could with regard to getting it over and done with and making sure it wasn’t too much of a distraction for the group.
“It was a battle to make sure the guys narrowed their focus to what’s important week to week.”