Wayne Johnston loved the big stage. Never was he more at home than when he was performing in front of packed houses in September.

During his 12 seasons in the navy blue, Johnston garnered a well-deserved reputation of being one of the game's greatest finals players.

When the Blues needed an inspirational act, Johnston delivered with a brilliant tackle or smother.

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Or bursting clear from a stoppage and kicking truly from outside 50m on his trusty left boot - he could do it all.

Inspirational Blue Wayne Johnston thrived on footy's biggest stage. All pictures: AFL Photos

But before breaking into Carlton's powerful line-up in 1979, Johnston had doubts about making it at the elite level.

Having been rejected by the Blues before the 1978 season, he went back to VFA club Prahran, where he starred and won a premiership under coach Mick Erwin.

Erwin had a profound influence on a young Johnston, improving his fitness and changing his game.

At the end of 1978, Melbourne was interested in signing him, but he would need a clearance from Carlton.

Captain-coach Alex Jesaulenko issued an edict that no player would be cleared before the Blues had seen them in action. Johnston starred in the practice games, booting a bag on 'Jezza' in an intra-club match and his fate was sealed.

"I was a senior footballer by the time I started at Carlton," he said. "I don't think I could've made it any earlier."

He made his debut against Essendon at Waverley Park, kicking two goals in a minute during the second quarter opposed to fellow debutant Neale Daniher.

Johnston played an integral role in a golden era for Carlton, being the only Blue to play in the 1979, '81, '82 and '87 premierships.

"We were entertainers, we wanted to play good footy," he said.

Johnston was ahead of his time in putting defenders under enormous pressure. "I became a fanatical forward," he said.

The successful '82 and '87 campaigns were perfect illustrations of the influence Johnston exerted in big games.

After he was suspended for striking Hawthorn's David Polkinghorne in the qualifying final, Carlton managed to win the next two finals and the dynamic left-footer returned to take on Richmond in the Grand Final.

He set the tone in a frenetic opening, kicking the first goal and setting up the next two. The Blues won by that margin of 18 points.

Johnston also subdued star Tigers midfielder Geoff Raines and was considered unlucky not to win the Norm Smith Medal.

It was a similar story in 1987.

Johnston alerted umpire Ian Robinson that Hawthorn had five players in the centre square and won a free kick before the opening bounce.

He went on to kick-start another Carlton premiership by booting the first two goals of the game.

Johnston is proud to be a one-club player, although there was one lucrative offer to leave. He rejected a deal to join Collingwood in 1984 to stay and become the Blues' skipper.

While it is more than a generation since he pulled on the boots at AFL level, Johnston, 60, is chuffed to be recognised with this honour.

"This is the missing link and it means a lot to me and my family," he said.

Wayne Johnston
BornDecember 19, 1957
Recruited fromPrahran
Playing career1979-90
Player honoursBest and fairest 1983, 1986 (equal); leading goalkicker 1980; premiership team 1979, 1981, 1982, 1987; All-Australian 1987; Victorian representative (5 games, 3 goals); International Rules representative (3 games, 0 goals); captain 1984-85; Carlton Team of the Century; Carlton Hall of Fame (Legend)

Johnston loved a good time off the field, bestowing the nickname 'Dominator' on himself during a night out with teammates and friends at a popular Melbourne nightspot.

But when he pulled on the No. 7 jumper for Carlton, it was strictly down to business with winning the ultimate goal.

He lived up to his nickname with heroic deeds that won many games for his beloved Blues. When it counted, he was truly dominating.

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