Michael Johnson inks new chapter with Fremantle Dockers
Rebuilt and rejuvenated in mind and body, Michael Johnson is a man on a mission and the Fremantle defender is doing it for more than just his club.
The 27-year-old says he’s playing for himself, his people and, most of all, for his family. It’s a family of five now after he and partner Dayna brought home their third child, a daughter Nevaya, this week.
“It’s been fantastic to have the little one at home; the other two kids love her so it’s been great at home so far,” he said. “I’ve had two already, so I’m prepared for the sleepless nights. I’ll tweak a couple of things during the week and the club is very supportive of that so I can help out the missus and the kids.
“But she understands what business I’m in, the AFL business, and she knows the sacrifices I have to make to be a really good player.
“Every parent out there would want to do the best they can to support their family and I’m lucky enough to be in the AFL industry and doing the right thing for my family.
“It’s something that I love and I guess cherish, being an AFL footy player. In years to come I can look back and the kids can look back at my career and say this is what my father did for us to get this far.”
Johnson is equally proud of his Noongar heritage and while his long playing socks cover most of his new tribute, he was happy to show off his new handiwork at the club this week. His lower left leg boasts tattoos of his family frog totem, while there are also depictions of a kangaroo, goanna, snake and boomerang.
It looks like beautiful artwork and that’s because it is. Each design was a painting done by his aunty, Aboriginal artist Beryl Dick, before they were copied by the tattooist.
The canvas of Johnson’s lithe 194cm body is still a work in progress, with former teammate and now development coach Roger Hayden also working on designs for future tattoos.
It’s not the only transformation Johnson’s body experienced last summer. Following a heart-to-heart with new coach Ross Lyon, he lost 5kg, lowered his skin-folds and overcame a long-term groin problem.
Where last season he was a Mr Fixit with neither body or his confidence-shot mind operating at full capacity, a full-time return to a rebounding defensive role has meant he is a new player in 2012.
Johnson is averaging 22 possessions and seven marks a game as a tall rebounder and has a new lease on life.
“When I finished last season I knew I had the ability to play AFL footy,” he said.
“When Ross got the gig and sat down with me and said that he was keen on me playing in the defence, I was really happy with that.
“He’s had a lot of confidence in me and has backed me in to, I guess, get myself right and play the role that he wants me to play. I guess I was built more key-forward/key-back position, so coming into this pre-season my focus was to be one of those players that can run all day and run off and create.”
If his family rides every bump and kick on the field, they also ride the kicks he’s copped off it. Hinting at both the embarrassing suspension he was handed by the club in 2010 after being charged with drug possession as well as his form struggles, Johnson said his lowest points had been just as tough for his partner and family.
“They went through a tough year with me as well. I copped it from the media and other people and she had to wake up and read about it,” he said.
“Not being in form doesn’t help you at all, so it’s been great to have that support around me to get me through the tough times.”