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Hall of Fame News

Hall of Fame: Legend Blight, Baz joins greats

Malcolm Blight, Barry Hall among those honoured at Hall of Fame gala

11:19pm  Jun 20, 2017

Malcolm Blight: a Hall of Fame Legend whose time has come

The only winner of the Brownlow, Magarey and Coleman medals is recognised as a Legend

10:52pm  Jun 20, 2017

Six moments that made Malcolm Blight a Legend

'Blighty' is now a Legend of Australian Football. Here are six reasons why

10:51pm  Jun 20, 2017

2017 Hall of Fame: Anthony Stevens - hard-nosed heart of the Kangaroos

Anthony Stevens is a 2017 inductee into the AFL Hall of Fame

10:27pm  Jun 20, 2017

Hall of Fame: Brad Johnson
Rohan Smith and Scott West on a loyal Bulldog
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BRAD Johnson thinks Rex Hunt has a lot to answer for. In his colourful commentary style, Hunt dubbed Johnson ‘The Smiling Assassin’.

The nickname became too sensitive during the trial of Bali bomber Amrozi, so Hunt started calling the Bulldogs champion ‘The Grin Reaper’.

Not surprisingly, Johnson wasn't particularly enamoured with either moniker.

Then in 2006, with Johnson enjoying a career-best season, Hunt observed that the Dogs' captain deserved to be "up there with the 'Macedonian Marvel' (Peter Daicos) and 'Lethal' Leigh (Matthews) in terms of the great small forwards".

When reminded about it, a typically humble Johnson scoffs at first, before saying: "Look, it's a huge call. I wasn't on the same level as those two, but it's nice that someone thought I might have been."

A determined leader, Brad Johnson remains one of the west's favourite sons. Picture: AFL Media


One man who shares Hunt's view is Rodney Eade – Johnson's former coach, who played with Matthews and against Daicos.

"They're certainly in rarefied air. They were different types but Brad compares favourably," Eade says.

"Peter was a mercurial player who could pull rabbits out of the hat. Brad had greater athleticism and running ability than the other two. He and Leigh could really mark too – Brad played above his height and was as a good mark for his size as I've seen.

"Like the others, Brad was very hard to stop."

Particularly in that 2006 season, his first as full-time skipper, when he averaged almost 20 touches, seven marks and three goals a game, piloting the Bulldogs to the finals for the first time in six years.

Eade: "Until he started having Achilles problems in his last year, his output didn't fluctuate much. And '06 was above that – his consistency of elite output was incredible."

The Smiling Assassin - Johnson with former Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade. Picture: AFL Media


One of Eade's fondest 'Johnno' memories is of his 300th game, against Adelaide at Etihad Stadium in round one, 2008, when the then 31-year-old kicked five second-half goals, including the Dogs' last three in the dying minutes, to conjure a three-point win.

"Normally players start to wane by that stage of their careers, but Brad was still a match-winner," Eade says.

Johnson partly credits Eade when explaining how he sustained such high performance over a club record of 364 games – including a league record of at least 21 games in 15 consecutive seasons.

"I learnt early on that it's about what you do when no one's watching," he says.

"And when 'Rocket' came along he emphasised that if you're going to succeed, you need a strong foundation as a player and a person. That's where your work rate, perseverance, recovery and preparation comes in. So rather than your performances varying between an eight (out of 10) and two, you don't drop below a five.

"At times you need the resilience to contribute when your body's not 100 per cent."

FACTFILE: BRAD JOHNSON
Club Western Bulldogs
Born July 18, 1976
Recruited from Williamstown/Western U18
Playing career 1994-2010
Games 364
Goals 558
Player honours Best and fairest 1999, 2002, 2006; 2nd best and fairest 2003, 2007; 3rd best and fairest 2000, 2004; leading goalkicker 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008; captain 2006-10; All-Australian 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006 (capt), 2007; Western Bulldogs Team of the Century; Victoria (3 games, 5 goals); International Rules (6 games)

Johnson's versatility as a forward/midfielder made him an extremely valuable commodity.

He believes his main attributes were his work ethic, marking ability and combination of speed and endurance.

Even when he played as a permanent forward, he continued to train as a midfielder to give him a fitness advantage over defenders.

Johnson also readily volunteers that he had to constantly work on his kicking, defensive skills and ball handling below his knees.

"It's the team aspect that allows you to grow as an individual, and there's also the self-drive and passion for the game to become the best you can be. That passion hasn't left me," he says.

Eade was also keen to point out that "behind that smiling face was a terrific, determined leader who led by example, and challenged and influenced his teammates to greater deeds."

Unfortunately that didn't include a drought-breaking premiership. But Johnson has no regrets because they "gave it everything".

Johnson paid special tribute to his wife Donna and their children Ella, 11, and Jack, eight, for their support.

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- By Ben Collins