Today’s Footy Almanac e-newsletter: I want my Johnno

G’day Sportsfans

What is happening to the world?

Footy started changing a long time ago, but that didn’t always affect me. Today it has. Johnno is gone. Yep, Johnno. Johnno, who has given us 250 odd games at Geelong, and I say that advisedly. They have been a Friday afternoon chook raffle of brilliance, only he’s always owned most of the tickets.

Johnno is a genius. It is not an act of parochial faith to label him that way. He sees the world differently, his capacities are different, and hence he behaves differently. The way he challenges himself is different. He’s different. Make me smile sort of different.

He’s especially different now. Maybe not different 40 years ago. But different now in the industrial process of Australian football when footy is weird.

But play and creativity will grow through the cracks in the concrete pavement that is the grey matter of coaches and administrators (who would have us believe they are the father of all success, and have a propaganda machine to back them up).

Those drips have mastered water torture. They have mastered the banal and the artless. Just to ensure their own station.

Come to the terrace and find out what makes punters sing. We want Johnno, and his like. We want unplanned. Chaotic. Brilliant. Beautiful. Unpredictable. Dazzling.

Players make football.

But, then again, the water torture may have worked. The terrace may have been brainwashed over the last decade and now buy the planning strategy. Who is advantaged by planning? The coaches. They’re guaranteed their job now. It’s three years time they’re concerned with.

I live in the now.

I want my Johnno. I want my Johnno. I want my Johnno.

You could see it coming. I think a few of us started to get a bit nervy about the future of Johnno earlier this week. P. Flynn went for a tribute piece – a super piece I might add. I got even nervier yesterday – so I dug out one about five minutes of Johnno genius against the Bulldogs in 2012.

Those pieces moved David Wilson to the pen – and he wrote similarly about Dane Swan (not that he is going). I imagine we will see more of these yarns.

We already had a couple of fine tributes to Bart – from Peter Baulderstone and Peter Flynn. And Crio’s Question called for Bart stories and Bart favourites – that’s a thread worth reading.

Plus we’ve had lots of other really good writing. Terry Chapman on the retirement of his brother Paul; Matt Zurbo on D. Menzel and Anson Cameron on D. Menzel (there’s a pairing); Officer Treverton gives us the inside story on the life of an on-duty Swans supporter; Sarah Black has had a massive number of hits on her piece on umpiring (not about the Tiges this time); Dennis Gedling on the Community Cup in Perth; fantastic memoir from Swish Schwerdt; Muz Bird returned to Langlands Park; and more.

Funny old round coming up with the ‘resting’ of players as Dave Brown discusses.

We have our Almanac darts tournament coming up on Brownlow night – The Sid Waddell Memorial. Nominate now.

Don’t forget the Tom Brock Lecture in Sydney on September 16. Details here.

Looking forward to seeing Johnno tomorrow. I don’t like what’s happened. I can’t imagine him elsewhere. How weird: Enright on Johnson! Selwood on Johnson! Mackie on Johnson!

Play and creativity? We’re all gravitating towards Brunswick Street Oval.

Go Jason Day

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. Peter Flynn says

    Absolutely nailed it.

  2. I sat and asked myself a really tough question – is sacking Johnno off the Geelong list the right move? About a picosecond later I had the answer: NO!!

    Footy is dead. Well, at Geelong anyway. Not physically, but spiritually.

    Johnno doesn’t fit the profile of a team in transition (or some such nonsense)? I don’t even know what that means!

    The Cats hierarchy has looked at Johnno all the wrong way. I fear he has been assessed purely as a footballer (which is still good enough in my view) and not as a wonderful asset to a club with a young list. I’d go so far as to designate him as the first playing (assistant) coach since the great Jezza. But there has been no breadth of thinking. He has been measured like an accountant measures a rate of return, not as a poet measures a poem. Sad day. I fear for the damage to the culture.

  3. Players make football.
    Players (metaphorical) make all facets of life.
    Making the running.
    Providing the spark.
    Thinking differently.

    More will rise. Look at S Motlop. Look at J Elliott. Long live the spirit of play.

  4. Matt Quartermaine says

    Don’t worry lads, you’ll probably still to see him, only in a Melbourne jumper next year.

  5. Great wisdom from the terrace JTH. We need characters in the game, especially those who can really play. Legendary characters Pops Kelly and SJ gone on the one day. Who’s going to step up as Geelong’s next magician/prankser/genius? Big shoes to fill.

    Cheers, Burkie

  6. Lot’s of handrigging from the coach about how hard it was for him to make these hard decisions blah blah blah. Ordinary supporters and true believers understand and appreciate that the game is not about winning a flag at all costs but really only about establishing a connection with a football club through the love of its players and how they play the game which can take a long time to establish but remains immutable once it has. The decision not to renew SJ’s contract is another reason many supporters feel disengaged with the modern game, clubs and players.

  7. no John, you want Geelong winning with a swagger like I want to be 25 and carefree again. He’s cooked.

  8. Hear, Hear JTH. Johnno was born to play for Geelong. Brilliant, unpredictable, enigmatic, loving one minute, disowning the next, loving again. Modern footy desperately needs more Steve Johnsons.

  9. I remember Stevie J completely bamboozling the Essendon defence one day at Empty Head Stadium. He appeared to show no interest in the game, fiddling with his boot, wandering aimlessly, and funarkling with the point post, until the ball was within about 50 metres. He won the ball every time, kicked goals and hand passed to team mates, whilst the Essendon players we left flat footed and wondering what the hell had happened. I reckon he could have beaten the Dons by himself that day.

  10. Mathilde de Hauteclocque says

    Long live dazzle.
    Please let Jetta stay.

  11. If footy is about premierships Crio, then the game is cooked. Footy is about the game.

    If the administrators think the game is about premierships then the decision to have 18 sides is utterly inept.

    The hope of a premiership is important (elemental) but the reality is, in the routine of the season, something else must sustain the supporter/fan/enthusiast.

    If it is just about hope the game is arbitrary. We could be NRL followers. It is more than that.

    Johnno satisfies the hunger for great football performance.

    So much footy think is narrow in its focus and denies/disregards key aspects of footy in life. It is driven by commercial/power thinking which serves ego and self interest. (Shakespeare would write a comedy-tragedy about it)

    It can be about so much more.

    Johnno brings soul to the game. Lets the soul flourish.

  12. Malcolm Ashwood says

    JTH spot on and there are so many aspects of afl footy which leaves a bitter taste in the mouth,( Geez enough in the last few days) I am also disappointed with Geelong re not trying to stop the cats moron mayor and paper re the Danger hysteria yes he is arguably the best player in the comp so of course he is the cats number 1 recruiting target but the rest of the crap is disgusting

  13. And where is genius in a world coloured beige?

    “Measured like an accountant measures a rate of return, not as a poet measures a poem.” Doesn’t this describe so much of the way the AFL has moved the modern game? Just assuming that the returns will grow, while followers grow estranged from a game slowly losing its soul.

    When “equalisation” begins to mean commodification, then uniformity leads to conformity.

    When every club starts to look like the same colour, and that colour looks increasingly like beige, then why feel passion for *any* one club rather than any *other* one?

    When still-playing players like Stevie J (and Chappie before him) are no longer wanted in a football club, is it time to wonder why modern football clubs should still be wanted at all?

  14. Danny Russell says

    The sources will be argued, but the wisdom of the quote is perennial: Always leave them wanting more.

    Just the handful of comments on this thread testify that more is wanted.

    Sure the timing and circumstances may mot be of the design that Stevie J had in mind, but he is leaving the Cats at the top of his game. If he stayed, we might be having this same conversation in 12 months, but the alternative is much worse. We might be regretting that extra season which diminished the magic and the memories.

    I’ll miss “SBJ” (on a bad day “SFJ”) in the hoops as much as anyone, but I’ll happily cling to my recollections of the audacious genius.

    Thanks Stevie J, and well played.

  15. David Zampatti says

    I like players who smile. Not just after the siren, but even when they stuff up. Strangely, they are also often players other teams’ supporters love to hate.
    The best ones going round now are Johnno and Eddie Betts (although surely no-one could hate him).
    Jeff Farmer of Melbourne and Fremantle was a smiler (and so, of course, is Ryan Crowley, in that slightly menacing Humphrey Bogart way of his).

    They’re a precious commodity.

  16. Despite the farewell of 3 champions of the club yesterday, I enjoyed the symmetry of watching three new players “get their chance” (as Chris Scott said): Vardy, Menzel, Cowan.

    Johnno should take up an assistant coaching job. In another jumper he would look like Charlie Chaplan in board shorts.

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