Johnson hits back
Michael Johnson wasn’t the only Fremantle player to bounce back to form in Sunday’s 34-point win over Essendon, but his turnaround was perhaps the most pronounced.
Johnson has been in a slump for much of this season, with coach Mark Harvey recently conceding that his position in the side would have been at risk if the club hadn’t suffered so many injuries.
The 26-year-old has appeared a shadow of the player that finished runner-up in the 2006 club champion award, spending the majority of the season in defence and appearing to lack confidence.
But on Sunday he was sent forward to great effect, finishing his best game for the season with two goals, eight marks and 21 possessions. Maintaining his form is the challenge now.
“It’s been a tough month, but it’s how I get over it and move on,” Johnson said on Sunday night.
“When boys are out of form we get around them and help them. I’ve been slowly getting there and it’s going to be a long season.
“I went forward today and worked with the boys down there. It paid off and I’m very happy, so hopefully I can keep it going for the team.”
Fremantle held its place in the top eight with Sunday’s win, notching its first win at home since its round-five clash with the Western Bulldogs.
Johnson said the team was moving in the right direction.
“We worked really hard and we’re playing the way we want to play,” he said.
“The win was for the supporters out there, it’s been a tough couple of weeks, so it was great to get a win for them.”
Coach Mark Harvey, who praised his side for an even performance, said he had set Johnson the challenge of playing forward to “mix it up a little bit” after a run of poor form in defence.
“I thought he gave us some real spark early,” the coach said. “Maybe he’s a forward, not a defender – that might be my fault.”
As well as Johnson, forwards Chris Mayne and Hayden Ballantyne lifted their contributions and captain Matthew Pavlich returned to form after a week of criticism for his recent performances.
Ballantyne, who had kicked one goal in his past three games, booted 2.2 and had 21 possessions, while Pavlich kicked a season-high three goals.
“I thought Ballantyne was tremendous and I thought Pavlich started to move into some really good goalkicking form,” Harvey said.
“I thought it was a lot better, even contribution from a lot of players.”