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Buddy bond flourishing, says Stevie J

Luke McManus  March 8, 2018 1:33 PM

Johnson press conference - March 7, 2018 Assistant coach Steve Johnson discusses potential ins and outs with the media ahead of Friday's JLT series clash with GWS.
Steve Johnson and Lance Franklin have been working closely together on the training track. - Steve Johnson,Lance Franklin

Steve Johnson and Lance Franklin have been working closely together on the training track.

I’ve found tapping into someone like Lance’s footy brain has been really good as well, he obviously knows lot about the game (and) watches more footy than what people realise.

They may not have seen eye-to-eye as opponents on field, but the Lance Franklin and Steve Johnson’s relationship off the field is flourishing now the former Cat and Giant has settled in his new colours.

Johnson, who retired after 293 games with Geelong and GWS before embarking on his coaching career with John Longmire’s team, has savoured “tapping into” Franklin’s wealth of experience and knowledge as the first-year coach prepares his players for the upcoming premiership season.

Prior to joining Sydney Johnson’s relationship with Franklin was limited to the playing field where the combatants had a few run-ins over the journey, spirited clashes that reached boiling point during the 2016 qualifying final at ANZ Stadium.

But over the past six months the pair has got to know each other, working in team meetings and out on the training track, and sharing their unique perspectives on the game for the benefit of the Swans’ forward group.

“I’ve found, especially those forward line players I’m working with, have been really responsive,” Johnson said on Wednesday.

“I’m not here to tell them how to play footy so much, (but) just to make sure that they’ve got an environment where they can develop a bit of synergy.

“I’ve found tapping into someone like Lance’s footy brain has been really good as well, he obviously knows a lot about the game (and) watches more footy than what people realise.

“I didn’t really know too much about Buddy before I came here, I (had) never really met him off field.

“Just sitting down with him and speaking about footy has been really refreshing, just hearing about his ideas and getting to know him as a person. He’s really easy to communicate with and a really nice fella.”

Johnson not only has the competition’s best forward to work with but he’s also got, at his disposal, a number of talented youngsters with proven AFL experience.

With very little left to teach the 10th greatest goal-kicker of all time, Johnson says his attention has centred on utilising the strengths of Sydney’s forward line to help spread the load and stay ahead of the curb.

“Everyone looks at the forwards and thinks of Buddy straight away,” Johnson said.

“And he’s a really important player for us, but we’ve got some young players coming through, like (Will) Hayward and (Tom) Papley, who are really dangerous players.

“They give us some speed down there and, given the way the game is going with pressure, I think it’s an advantage I’ve got at my disposal as forward coach.

“Every team has been speaking about it for a long time. (Richmond) had a little bit of a different set up, only having the one key forward (and) their smaller players knew their role was to put pressure on and create turnovers. A lot of scores come on the back off turnovers these days.

“Whilst it’s still really important to mark the ball and kick goals; when you’re not marking it, you need to bring ground-level pressure so that’s one thing we’ll be aiming to do.”

Renowned as a champion of the game but one who routinely played on the edge, Johnson has had to adopt a different mantra to the one held as a triple premiership player, Norm Smith medallist and dual All Australian.

“It’s sort of do what I say and not what I did,” he quipped.

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