Fairytale ends as Jonno bows out of AFL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Fairytale ends as Jonno bows out of AFL

By Sam Lienert 19/09/2010 08:47:20 AM Comments (0)

For a half, Western Bulldogs skipper Brad Johnson was tantalised with the distinct possibility that his AFL career might have a fairytale finish.

Rank underdogs entering Saturday night's preliminary final against St Kilda, Johnson's pack were a goal clear at the main break and possibly should have been further ahead.

St Kilda looked nervous, with star forwards Nick Riewoldt and Stephen Milne messing up golden scoring opportunities, while the Dogs' confidence climbed and lesser lights such as Dylan Addison and Callan Ward shone.

Had the Bulldogs been able to maintain that for another hour of football, Johnson's 365th and final match would also have been his maiden grand final appearance against Collingwood next Saturday.

It would have given him the AFL/VFL record for the most matches ever played to notch a grand final berth.

Reality struck when a revved-up St Kilda dominated after the break as Riewoldt hit his stride.

The Saints skipper kicked two third-term goals and set up at least two others as St Kilda finally followed the expected script, blasting the Dogs away to lead by 31 points at the last change.

While the Dogs reeled in a similar deficit against Sydney in last weekend's semi-final, there was no coming back against the stingy Saints.

It meant newly-retired Sydney coach Paul Roos remains the player whose maiden grand final appearance came latest in a career, after 314 matches with Fitzroy and the Swans.

Johnson's swansong, after 364 matches, ended in all-too-familiar style.

It was the fifth time in a career that began in 1994 that a premiership bid ended at the penultimate hurdle.

But Johnson said he went out proud of his team.

"We fought it out, and that's the thing, the group that I played with my whole career but also the past four or five years, they just battle it out every week, they give absolutely everything they've got on a weekly basis, I'm so proud of these boys," he said.

"Obviously it's disappointing, the emotions are extremely high at the moment, but when things settle down we'll certainly be able to reflect on it."

In Johnson's time, the Dogs lost preliminary finals in 1997 and 1998, both against Adelaide, in 2008 against Geelong, and last year by seven points to the Saints.

It leaves the club with just two grand final appearances in their history - their sole 1954 premiership and their 1961 loss to Hawthorn - and with the AFL's longest premiership drought.

Johnson, 34, will finish trailing only 366-game Bulldogs and Fitzroy star Bernie Quinlan as the longest career without a grand final.

But the three-time best and fairest and six-time All Australian, chaired off to a guard of honour from both sides, at least went out playing solid football.

That had looked doubtful when he limped through a qualifying final thrashing by Collingwood two weeks ago, after being troubled by an Achilles injury all year.

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