Local Footy: Stevie J all the way in a rare game for Wangaratta

At last year’s Footy Almanac lunch before the grand final, Steve Johnson’s father Terry was asked to name the best game he had seen his son play.

It was expected that Terry would name one of Steve’s many great games for the Cats—maybe his Norm Smith Medal performance in the 2007 grand final. Instead, he named a game that Steve played for Ovens and Murray league club Wangaratta as a 17-year-old.

It was mid-winter during the 2001 season. Wangaratta was playing Myrtleford at the alpine town’s McNamara Oval. Steve had 43 possessions and kicked three goals in a losing team.

Wangaratta again played Myrtleford on Saturday, so it seemed as good a time as any to ask Terry to recall Steve’s 2001 game. “He left them for dead,” he said.

Steve Johnson played for the Magpies in 2000 as a 16-year-old. The next year he tried out with TAC Cup club Murray Bushrangers. Early in the season, he was about to be dropped from the Bushrangers’ squad when the coaches were persuaded to stick with him for another two games.

After half-dozen games he was chosen in the Victorian Country squad to play at the national under-18 championships. He played so well in the championships that he was named in the All-Australian team.

The Bushrangers’ bye after the championships cleared the way for Johnson to line up for Wangaratta against Myrtleford. He played in the midfield and did things that no one had seen in Ovens and Murray footy.

“He kicked a couple of unique goals,” his father said.

Col McClounan was the Wangaratta coach in that game. He said Johnson played on a higher plane even to the Myrtleford stars who were ranked among the best country footballers in the state.

“It’s the angles he sees,” McClounan said.

Halfway through the last quarter, Johnson tackled an opponent and rolled on to his wrist. The result was a broken bone.

McClounan said the injury robbed Johnson of a certain 50 possessions. His main reaction, however, was shock. All Wangaratta people were worried that the injury might damage Johnson’s chances of being drafted because his season had ended.

“We were actually pretty distressed,” McClounan said.

In an effort to cheer up the teenage star, the coach asked Johnson to sign the stats sheet that showed his 43 possessions. “I said, “You’d better sign this now. It’s the last day you’ll ever play for this club’.”

Johnson was of course named the Magpies’ best player against Myrtleford. His brother David, a tough midfielder, was also among the best.

“I think Steve brought David into the game,” McClounan said.

In the end, McClounan was right about Steve playing his final game for Wangaratta. Geelong overlooked his inability to play during the second half of the season to take him at No.24 in the draft.

Fortunes in the Ovens and Murray league have reversed since 2001, when Myrtleford was on top and Wangaratta was down the bottom. Now Wangaratta is fighting for a finals berth and Myrtleford is winless.

On Saturday, Wangaratta defeated Myrtleford by 64 points. On Saturday night, Steve Johnson kicked six goals in another bravura performance for Geelong.


  1. Daff – Every time I read something about Stevie J, the story his Dad told at the Almanac pre Grand Final lunch comes to mind (unfortunately) where he described in great, sordid detail the moment Stevie was conceived. As there are underlings on this forum I won’t repeat it here.

  2. Dips,

    I can’t remember any salacious stories from that day.

    Does that say more about you or me?

  3. Sadly, probably me!

  4. Pamela Sherpa says

    Stevie J was terrific last weekend, A treat to watch. Geelong looked very good.

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