Johnson put to the test at Dockers - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Johnson put to the test at Dockers

By Justin Chadwick 16/06/2010 06:01:46 PM Comments (0)

Suspended Fremantle forward Michael Johnson is being pushed "to the limit" at training in an attempt to have him in prime condition for an immediate return to AFL ranks if needed.

Johnson, who was suspended by the club for five AFL matches, fined $5000 and stripped of his leadership duties after being caught with cocaine, is eligible to resume in the WAFL from next week before a possible round 14 return for the Dockers.

While Fremantle initially coped well in Johnson's absence, winning games against Sydney and North Melbourne, they have dropped matches against Adelaide and St Kilda in the past fortnight.

Against the Saints, ruckman Zac Clarke was thrust into the forward role usually filled by Johnson and failed dismally, gathering just two possessions for a return of 0.1.

Fremantle coach Mark Harvey said he was yet to decide whether to grant Johnson an immediate recall when his AFL ban expires but was pleased with how the 25-year-old was tracking along.

"The plan for him has been to work him really hard twice a day for the last three or four weeks and we'll continue to do that and we'll see how he is," Harvey said on Wednesday.

"It's more about him coming back a better player on the back of not playing for six weeks.

"We are happy because we are pushing him to the limit.

"Whether he needs a game or two at WAFL level (before playing for us) or whether he complements the side straight away (is yet to be decided)."

The Dockers enter the round in fourth spot on the table but Harvey, whose contract expires at the end of the year, said there was no timeline on when he and the club would sit down and talk about an extension to his current deal.

"I tell you what you learn in this game, if you make too many predictions it comes back quite quickly," he said.

Harvey said midfielder Rhys Palmer, who missed the loss to the Saints with an ankle and calf complaint, was a certainty to return for Saturday's crucial clash with the Blues at Etihad Stadium.

Palmer, winner of the 2008 Rising Star award, has been solid but unspectacular in six games this year after missing most of last season with a knee injury.

"If you have a look at guys who've had knee reconstructions, their following year can always be up and down and getting back to the type of player you were can sometimes take time," Harvey said of Palmer's form.

"He's one of those brave, courageous type of players you always like to have in your side.

"I said to him the game's probably gone up another five per cent whilst you were out so he's still adapting to that but he'll work his way around it."

Defender Greg Broughton is a chance to return from a foot injury but Chris Mayne (ankle), Luke McPharlin (knee) and Des Headland (knee) won't be available until after the mid-season break.

Sixth-placed Carlton, who sit just one win adrift of the Dockers, have a wealth of talent to inject into their side, with Paul Bower, Brock McLean, Chris Yarran and Kane Lucas among a large group pushing for recalls.

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