Johnson’s AFL return to give Swans a boost

Sydney will be powered by a feel-good factor in their finals-like AFL match against Collingwood, with Alex Johnson’s return lifting the mood at the SCG.

Johnson will tackle the Magpies on Saturday night, playing his first AFL game since helping the Swans win the 2012 grand final.

Johnson has spent 2136 days on the sidelines, undergoing a total of 12 knee operations.

The stakes will be incredibly high, with Sydney confronting the prospect of missing the finals for the first time under coach John Longmire.

The Swans, reeling from losses to Gold Coast and Essendon, sit ninth on the ladder and face top-eight teams during the final four rounds of the season.

Harry Cunningham suggested playing alongside the luckless Johnson, who has overcome five knee reconstructions and some serious knee infections, will give the club additional motivational this weekend.

“Absolutely,” Cunningham told reporters.

“AJ is pretty excited, as is everyone else.

“It’ll be very special for blokes to see him run out on the AFL stage.

“He was there for my debut game and I haven’t played with him since.”

Cunningham is a close friend of the injury-cursed defender, whose recovery has been a source of great inspiration for all players at the club.

“I don’t think anybody can put into words what has gone on throughout his career,” the speedster said.

“It just says a lot about his character and resilience.”

Johnson’s comeback game isn’t the only reason it will be a special night for Cunningham.

The Wagga Wagga product will play his 100th AFL game, while the Swans will wear a commemorative strip to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of South Melbourne’s VFL grand final victory over the Magpies.

“I’m pretty happy AJ has stolen the thunder. I’m more of a fly under the radar sort of guy,” Cunningham said, having joined the Swans via the 2011 rookie draft after being part of GWS’s academy.

“To raise the bat is something I’m very proud of.

“We also get to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the 1918 premiership, we’ve got a responsibility to do those guys proud.

“We’ve played some really good footy this year and just need to get back to doing that.”

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