Alex Johnson: A Tackle Your Feelings story

words by Tackle Your Feelings, Monday 26 April 2021

After being drafted with pick No. 57 in the 2010 National Draft, Alex Johnson had the dream start to his AFL career.

The former Sydney Swans defender played 45 games in his first two seasons, including the 2012 premiership.

But, a spate of serious knee injuries following a tear in his anterior crucial ligament (ACL) during the 2013 pre-season would see Johnson on the sidelines for more than 2,136 days.

“I was a kid in a bit of a rush to get to the next level,” Johnson told Tackle Your Feelings.

“You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone and that’s what I learnt in the years after.

“I was naïve to what I was about to face… I’d just turned 21 the week before (his first knee reconstruction) so I thought if I have 12 months out it might not be that bad.”

Six years on from his first serious knee injury, Johnson returned to the field for the Swans in a thrilling victory over Collingwood in 2018.

Playing at the elite level again instilled a sense of normality back in Johnson’s life.

Holding his own, the next week Johnson returned to the MCG more than six years after his last game there.

In a devastating turn of events, Johnson injured his “good” right? knee.

“That was a roller coaster of emotions from finding out I was playing against Collingwood, the unbelievable win and celebrations with my teammates, friends and family, to then go down and suffer yet another setback… it was extremely hard to deal with,” he said.

Throughout his time on the sidelines Johnson experienced a number of mental health challenges and difficulties associated with not being able to fulfil his role as an athlete.

In the last year, Johnson sought support and has used newfound tools to help manage his mental health and wellbeing.

“Although (mental health) is an ongoing thing, it’s about that management… you can compare it to what I’m doing with my knees. I have to manage them for the rest of my life and the mental health side is the same.”

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