Alex Johnson (right) and Harry Cunningham after Sydney's win over Collingwood in round 20, 2018. Picture: AFL Photos

SYDNEY premiership player Alex Johnson is returning to clubland after landing a new role at the Western Bulldogs.

The 31-year-old is the latest football department change at the Whitten Oval, returning to the AFL landscape as a development coach five years after leaving Sydney.

The Western Bulldogs have made a raft of changes to the football department since a disappointing 2023 campaign ended in August, with Stefan Martin the latest exit following a year as a development coach.  

Johnson endured a nightmare injury run during his time at the Swans, suffering five anterior cruciate ligament tears in his left knee between the Grand Final win in 2012 and his return game 2136 days later in late 2018, before doing his right knee in his second game back.

The Victorian returned to Melbourne at the end of that season following 47 games across eight seasons in NSW, joining the Northern Blues as head of development and in a playing capacity, before requiring another knee reconstruction following an injury at training with Old Xaverians in the VAFA in 2020. 


Johnson has transitioned into coaching since leaving the Swans, working as an assistant coach with the First XVIII at Xavier College alongside former schoolmate and Adelaide Crows defender Sam Shaw and then at Old Xaverians in 2023. 

New Western Bulldogs coaching and performance manager Matt Egan crossed paths with Johnson during his time as head of football at Xavier College.

Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains and head of football Chris Grant have been busy making changes to the football department to support Luke Beveridge since the club missed out on playing finals this year, poaching Egan from Geelong where he was head of development.

Former St Kilda captain Jarryn Geary joined the club last week as a development and player leadership coach after spending 12 months away from the game. 

Daniel Pratt has also moved to the Kennel as backline coach after spending the past decade at the West Coast Eagles in a range of roles. 

Favourite son Rohan Smith departed after a long stint as backline coach, along with assistant coach Marc Webb, development coach Travis Varcoe and now Martin.