Fremantle Dockers recruit Matt Johnson ready to play for Peel Thunder in WAFL after overcoming foot fracture

Headshot of Braden Quartermaine
Braden QuartermaineThe West Australian
Dockers midfield recruit Matt Johnson is set to play for Peel Thunder on Saturday.
Camera IconDockers midfield recruit Matt Johnson is set to play for Peel Thunder on Saturday. Credit: Ian Munro/The West Australian

If Fremantle fans are already happy with the trade that brought Gold Coast midfielder Will Brodie to the club, the deal might soon start to look even better with impressive youngster Matt Johnson finally ready to make his mark.

Johnson, snared with the prized opening pick of day two in last year’s national draft that the Dockers got as part of the Brodie deal, has been slowed by an operation on a foot stress fracture.

The 19-year-old Subiaco product has been given the green light to play his first game for the year for Peel against South Fremantle at Fremantle Community Bank Oval on Saturday.

Fremantle’s almost non-existent injury list means he will join a large number of Dockers at WAFL level, with captain Nat Fyfe (back) and youngster Nathan O’Driscoll (foot) potentially the only players unavailable to play this weekend.

Forwards Matt Taberner (hamstring), Sam Switkowski (concussion) and Michael Walters (COVID isolation) are all set to return for Sunday’s home clash with Collingwood should they get through main training on Thursday morning, while key defender Alex Pearce will need to prove he has overcome his latest ankle flare-up.

Fellow defender Joel Hamling, who has made only one senior appearance this season, could join Johnson in the Thunder line-up following a knee injury.

Johnson will be the last of Fremantle’s four selections to get on the field this year, with Jye Amiss and Neil Erasmus already having featured at AFL level. Next Generation Academy pick-up Eric Benning is considered a long-term project and has been playing reserves for Peel.

Listed at 192cm and 80kg, Johnson is a similar height as Fyfe and David Mundy and won the best-on-ground medal in the under-19s curtain raiser between WA and South Australia on AFL grand final day last year.

Fremantle football boss Peter Bell described the return of Johnson, who played all three grades for Subiaco last season, as “really exciting”.

“He would have been available for last weekend’s fixture, but with a WAFL bye that wasn’t to be the case,” Bell said.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: Matthew Johnson of Western Australia is tackled by Adam DAloia of South Australia during the 2021 U19 Championship match between Western Australia and South Australia at Optus Stadium on September 25, 2021 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)
Camera IconMatthew Johnson is yet to play a game in 2022 after being injured. Credit: Dylan Burns/AFL Photos/AFL Photos via Getty Images

“I think it will give everyone a bit of a boost to see Johnno out there for his first game on the weekend.”

The Dockers’ improvement this season has made the Brodie-Johnson deal even sweeter. They got Brodie and picks 19, 61 and 69 for their future second and fourth-rounders, so the higher they finish this season, the lower the selections they will be handing to the Suns.

Johnson has had to get used to waiting, after going undrafted on the opening day despite being invited to RAC Arena with his family to be showcased on the TV broadcast as a potential top-10 pick.

At the time he said he would use the episode as added motivation.

“It adds fuel to the fire and a little bit more motivation,” Johnson said.

“I took a lot of positives out of draft night and it’s definitely going to motivate me going forward.

“I had a few clubs say that they were really keen on me and obviously I kind of expected to go in the first round, but I suppose having those clubs turn me down sort of added a bit of motivation.”

State talent manager Adam Jones believed Fremantle got the best three players in last year’s WA draft pool by adding Johnson to Amiss and Erasmus.

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