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  • Writer's pictureThe Chief

There's Something About MJ

I’ll preface this piece by admitting I’m very easily amused and even more easily thrilled. I attribute it to the near on 30-year fanatical devotion to the Fremantle football club, times of which I have cherished almost as much as I have endured. It’s the unexpected, or rather inevitable bi-product of experiencing deeper depths of sporting despair than anyone ever thought possible.

I’m not going to lie; I’ve punched the air on the odd occasion when we’ve won the coin toss and then opportunistically blamed ‘climate change’ for being six goals down at the first break after initially choosing to kick with a suddenly deteriorating wind.

However, you won’t convince me that there isn’t something substantial brewing down at the Port… or rather down in the vicinity of a Rhys Palmer shoe throw from the Cockburn / Kwinana industrial harbour. It is something real which has all us Fremantle fans signing up to meditation courses in an attempt to manage our anticipatory tendencies.

While ultimate team success is a result of the sum of parts, there is a young individual part taking gigantic leaps and bounds, who may well have an over-weighted bearing and influence on the sustained success we are circling in on.

I’m actually not quite sure if the 20-year-old now 8 game veteran, Matt Johnson, is taking the AFL by storm or is storming the AFL. However, studies and statistical analysis have undisputedly revealed covid has been humiliated by the number and sheer size of the waves this seriously talented youngster is making.

Now I don’t want to get carried away here but, almost without a word of a lie, did you know Tsunamis themselves now have a Matt Johnson warning siren?

Just eight career games which includes rounds three, four and ten when he wore the sub vest. So, given he averaged 29% game time in those sub vest matches, effectively you could suggest its really only a half a dozen full game career.

While yet to be found guilty, I’m regularly accused of over exuberant, unbridled, joyful exaggeration but right now it isn’t the time or the place for those baseless allegations. So, when I tell you that David Mundy said he wishes he could be the next Matt Johnson, rest assured that is coming from the great Mr. Mundy himself….. providing there is no follow up research into the claims that I actually asked him.

But just let the former Freo champ and now Dunsborough Shark enjoy his semi-retirement and don’t go badgering him with the “did you say this” and “did you say that” irrelevant questions.

In fact, despite the so far small body of work, I’ve seen enough to go one further and suggest young Matty Johnson has the skill set and composure of David Mundy and the brute force and power of a Nat Fyfe. So, for mine, he’ll now be known as Fundy Johnson.

This is a young 20-year-old kid who has an intelligent football head on his shoulders. He has shown the ability to speed read the play, comprehend it, assess it, calculate the highest percentage option and, with ridiculous composure, make the right decision and subsequently execute.

The way Johnson has carried himself when deep in traffic so far in his short career only leads us to believe he possesses an invaluable rare spatial awareness, something usually reserved for just a few mature seasoned top liners, or more so even just the greats.

And let’s not forget that not only is he just a 20-year-old midfielder, he’s a 20-year-old midfielder often surrounded by midfielders only marginally older than himself. Granted those slightly older teammate mids are Caleb Serong and Andy Brayshaw, but the fact remains he’s not a young Fundy Johnson surrounded by his first name nickname namesakes at the height of their careers. He hasn’t got any protection from a Ryan Crowley. He isn’t getting a brownlow medal aiding Reece Conca Truck chop out! He’s simply shouldering his portion of the workload, not only handling it but producing well beyond anyone’s possible expectations.

Hone in on him and watch the strength he already possesses. It allows him to not only stand up in a tackle but shove and shrug off opponents and still efficiently get the ball away… yes I am well aware I sound like a broken record but… shut your face… the kid is an 8 game 20-year-old.

Speaking of efficiency, we’re all banging on about Richmond’s Jayden Short and his three magnificent 60 metre goals Saturday night. Well Fundy Johnson eats 60 metre goals for breakfast! He efficiently gets it done and covers the same ground with 33% less output, easing back and letting them go from 85 metres. Yes sure, the resulting scoreboard numbers don’t quite equate but don’t go shooting holes in a nonsensical theory! Just focus on the fuel he conserves….

To think it was about just 18 months ago when he almost landed a Kleenex sponsorship, understandably in tears, overwhelmed and unselected at the closure of the first day of the national draft, to now being eight games in, virtually a walk up start into the midfield and showing us all this raw ability and untapped potential … you shake your head in disbelief.

The absurd rapid rise from being a “how are we going to get Fundy Johnson an opportunity in the team” to “Fundy Johnson never sees Peel or the sub vest again” is mindboggling. I know there were always raps on him, but come on!

This type of rapid progression is as rare as seeing the word "omission" on the West Coast Eagle team sheets.

In just eighteen months at Freo he has added 10 kilograms to what was his already substantial frame. We can only imagine what he’ll proportionately weigh in at in a few years’ time after several preseasons, seasons and endless gym sessions. At 193 centimetres and now currently 88 kegs, it’s fair to say the big framed big body midfielder is back in vogue at the purple port masquerading Cockburn quarry!

Am I jumping the gun? Am I unfairly saddling Fundy Johnson with the heavy burden of absurd expectation? You bet your crackers I am! But this kid not only has the ability to cope with the ridiculous, he has perspective and the intelligence to block out this type of fan-based nonsense.

To be a little less theatrical and more rationally and responsibly analytical, there is no doubting the potential future of Matty Johnson, but he’s obviously far from the finished product.

From Saturday night’s game alone, there were times when Tim Taranto and Shai Bolton left him quicker than Marlon from a commercial industrial precinct! That's to be expected and there's absolutely no shame in it, especially given those two super jets have provided many higher credentialed and experienced players football lessons. But as mentioned earlier, Fundy Johnson has an intelligent head on his shoulders so you just know the treacherous rain wouldn’t have been the only thing he soaked up Saturday night.

Admittedly an initial eight game block is a very small sample size to go the big call crow on, but in these tough economic inflationary pressured times, backing in Johnson really feels a safe bet.

To close out back on the ridiculous, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - just imagine waking up in the morning and being a fan of a team that doesn’t have Fundy Johnson in it.

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