AFL 1 year ago

Jason Johannisen - It's Time To Stand Up

  • Jason Johannisen - It's Time To Stand Up

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 01: Jason Johannisen of the Bulldogs warms up during the round 15 AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the West Coast Eagles at Etihad Stadium on July 1, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

Before I go any further, You must understand that what I am about to write is not a public attack on a player. 

Please don't get me wrong here, I am a huge Jason Johannisen fan. Over the past 24 months he's been playing in the red, white and blue, he has done some wonderful things for this footy club throughout his time and he did have a massive influence in delivering this club's first premiership in over 60 years.

I've met Jason before and he is a really great guy and he's one that is a real down-to-earth sort of person. He's a man who I have nothing but love for as not just as a player, but as a person who leads an everyday life much like you or I.

But, oh my goodness, something needs to be done about this massive slump we've seen him in over this past month of footy. When the Western Bulldogs came back from the bye to take on the Swans in round 12, Sydney used forward George Hewett to play a niggling role on Johannisen that was used to maximum effect.

Every Bulldog fan will know that the Swans were tortured by Johannisen in both encounters last year. He kicked the match-winning goal in the dying seconds in what was the only regular-season game between the two sides last year. Which was then followed up with a Norm Smith Medal-winning performance in the Bulldogs' fairytale premiership success, recording 33 disposals with nine inside 50s and seven rebound 50s in the Bulldogs' triumph.

On that fateful Thursday night at the SCG, Johannisen only registered nine disposals, with five of those disposals being clangers. To say that he was well beaten would be stating the obvious, but honestly I couldn't tell you what was worse that night, that the fact that he was playing out the entire fourth quarter like he was a defeated man and that he was playing like he was searching for sympathy, or that there was little to no support from Johannisen's team mates at all on the night. The Bulldogs lost that match by 46 points and were comprehensively dominated by the Swans all night.

Regardless of what you want to call it, harassing and putting the hard tag on Johannisen has become the norm for opposition players. The following week it was Melbourne's residential antagoniser Tomas Bugg who had started the mind games before the first bounce, taking a selfie to social media account Instagram with team mate Jack Watts with the caption 'You Ready?' with the clear-cut intent of harassing Johannisen.

Then it was North Melbourne's turn to antagonise Johannisen, sending former Bulldog team mate Nathan Hrovat alongside Taylor Garner to get stuck into the Norm Smith medallist all night long in what was a physically intense and such a spiteful game from start to finish, and then most recently, it was West Coast tagger Mark Hutchings that put the clamps on Johannisen with constant niggling that again took his influence out of the game with consistently bumping him off the ball - a tactic that saw coach Luke Beveridge label a moment in which Hutchings knocked Johannisen over in the first quarter, a cowardly act.

Over this past month, Johannisen has only averaged under 14 disposals a game, with him making bugger-all impact on the game and now it's regressed to the point where it is simply getting on my damn nerves and the worst part of it all is that it doesn't look like it's going to get any better until something is done about this situation.

This isn't a whinge to the AFL to stamp out taggers and pests for good. I think it's great that we have those sort of players that can play a negating role and play it well. I was a huge fan of Ryan Crowley when he was tagging superstars out of the games at Fremantle a few years ago and when Liam Picken was playing for this football club as a shut-down player and not the high-flying star we saw in the finals series last year - I was still a massive fan of Picken's ability to close out the influences of many a star midfielder during the Rodney Eade/Brendan McCartney era.

This is more of a plea to Jason Johannisen as a player - Will You Please Stand Up?

I am so fed up with how he continues to play like he's being victimised and that he continues to play like there is nothing he can do about it. The other night on the Channel 7 program Talking Footy, Wayne Carey, who is without a doubt a champion footballer, but probably not the most credible person in the football world, said something that I found myself agreeing with.

The former North Melbourne star said that Johannisen needs to 'Man up' and 'Look after himself'. I find it a rare moment that I agree with a man that has made more negative headlines than positive throughout his career, but this a moment where Carey has hit it square on the head.

I've seen Johannisen's team mates come out to fly the flag for him before the first bounce. Easton Wood made a beeline for Bugg before the start of the Melbourne game. I've seen Shane Biggs, Zaine Cordy, Jordan Roughead, Dale Morris - all of Johannisen's team mates in the back line come in to defend the out of form star. But there's only one man who hasn't fought back and it's arguably one of the most important players in amongst all of this.

That being the man himself Jason Johannisen. Every time I see him he's being pushed around, he's getting light jabs and they're in total control of his fate. Not once, have I seen Johannisen instigate anything or put his head down and play the game. This past month, all I have seen from him is no fight-back and no impact on the game itself when he cops a heavy tag. 

It's not the main reason the Bulldogs have performed so poorly this past month, winning one of four games, but it's playing a really big factor and it's unquestionably hurting the Bulldogs' brand of footy.

Everybody should know by now that Jason Johannisen's contract at the Whitten Oval expires at the end of the 2017 season. One certainly has to wonder if he's already made his mind up on where he's playing beyond 2017? His body attitude over the past month has showed a lot of signs that he doesn't want to play and that he's just 'rolling through the motions' as we like to say at local footy level.

Earlier in the year Johannisen has said that he is worth over $700,000 a season and held off contract talks until the end of the season, only to have that overturned just weeks later. We're now in July and heading towards the road to the AFL Finals Series and still nothing has been done - it truly makes me wonder where his future lies beyond this year. I'm about 90 percent convinced it's not in the confines of the Whitten Oval.

As of this moment, Johannisen has only been linked to two clubs: West Coast - who they just played on the weekend - and Essendon, with the latter of the two clubs expressing interest way before the beginning of the 2017. Back at the end of the 2013 season, the Bombers had enquired about Johannisen, who were convinced his speed across half-back were what they needed going forward after a tumultuous season in which they were banished to ninth place after their involvement in their supplements scandal.

I also found it very intriguing that it was only the other day that the Bulldogs were reportedly prepared to offer promising Adelaide defender Jake Lever a multi-year deal to jump from the Crows back to his home state of Victoria wth the Dogs willing to pay up to $850,000 a season. If the Dogs prepare to fire that contract to Lever, then you can just about lock it in that Johannisen won't be there next year.

Is that the Bulldogs subtlety telling Johannisen to make up his mind? Or is that the Bulldogs preparing for life after the 2016 Norm Smith Medallist? Don't get me wrong, acquiring Jake Lever from Adelaide would be an awesome get for the Dogs. Lever was a top-15 draft pick back in the 2014 AFL draft and is averaging some solid numbers for a 21-year old key defender - averaging 16 disposals, six marks and three rebound 50s and is consistently getting games. To see him pair with Marcus Adams and Zaine Cordy - who is developing rather nicely as a key defender would be something I'd like to see going forward.

But maybe $850,000 a season would be paying so much over for a guy who still has a few years before he can truly be an elite player. Potentially, it could be another Tom Boyd scenario. Johannisen, before he was tagged out of games, was averaging over 25 disposals per game in the first 10 matches of 2017 - which was more than his 2016 average and was in good form before the bye.

I don't mind that he's yet to commit to this team over the long term, some would rather focus on footy before going through contract talks, despite the contrary belief that outsiders believe that players are out the door the second they want to put their talks on hold - we've seen it with the biggest superstars the game's had to offer: Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Lance Franklin the latest names in this infamous trend.

The Bulldogs are sitting at 7-7 and are staring down the barrel of being the first team since the 2009 Hawthorn football team that will miss the finals just 12 months after winning the premiership. It's a very unwanted achievement to have, and I just hope that Johannisen finds a way to break out of this slump, and better still, sign himself up to a long-term deal to the Bulldogs.

If he's not getting the job done down back, I'd love to see Luke Beveridge play him down forward a bit more in the second half of the season, he's been fair anytime he went down forward this season and with his speed and elite skill, could prove to be a dynamic small forward type this club hasn't seen since Luke Dahlhaus came to the club as the dreadlocked small forward fans came to love him as.

I still consider Johannisen to be a valuable asset to this team and I think I can speak for a lot of people when I say that. The only person who doesn't believe it right now is the man himself. The Dogs face a stern task up in Adelaide on Friday night to get their seasons back on track

My message to Johannisen would be simple and straight forward: Stand up and treat this game on Friday night like you have nothing to lose.

His value as a player is diminishing each and every week he allows someone to tag him out of the game. Whether he resigns with the club or not, show some form of ticker, show everybody in the AFL community you have some fightback at AFL level instead of rolling on like you're being a victim. It is time to stand up and prove that you're worth the money you're asking for.

Jason Johannisen - Embrace the challenge, or possibly face the infamous Beveridge axe, permanently - It's all in your hands.

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