Alex Johnson was lauded for his inspirational comeback to the AFL after five knee reconstructions and six years out of the game – but the Swans player has just suffered yet another cruel setback.
Johnson was assisted from the field after suffering a suspected knee injury, and could hardly contain his emotions as he sat on the bench.
“I’m worried about Alex Johnson, he’s gone down,” said the commentators.
“I don’t know whether it was his ankle or his knee but he knew straight away that he’d done some damage.
“Football should not be allowed to be this cruel.”
Johnson limped from the ground in the arms of the trainers during Sunday’s first quarter after his right knee appeared to buckle underneath him while changing direction.
The 26-year-old has undergone five knee reconstructions but recently returned to play his first game since the 2012 grand final – a period of 2136 days.
The head of football for the Sydney Swans all but confirmed what the fans didn’t want to hear.
“It’s the knee he hasn’t had any trouble with at this stage,” said Tom Harley.
“It looks like an ACL which is disappointing for everyone.
“He more than anyone knows we’ve got a job to do now so.”
AJ has come off the field 😓
— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) August 12, 2018
Fans and viewers were quick to get around Johnson, and throw their emotional pleas of goodwill and support his way.
Poor fella, not even a Swans supporter but feel for him! Looked so innocuous. Terrible luck. #AFLDeesSwans
— Ralphy_Rollback (@RalphyRollback) August 12, 2018
Very very hard to watch Alex Johnson on the bench like that. Really feel for him #AFLDeesSwans
— Jason Gram (@gramsy_1) August 12, 2018
I do not like Sydney one bit but damn if I’m not shedding tears right now hearing about Alex Johnson. Fingers crossed it’s not the ACL. I just want good people to achieve their dreams and seeing his body fail him is heartbreaking. #AFLDeesSwans
— Jaiden Collis (@JaidenCollis) August 12, 2018
The Sydney defender, who recovered from 12 knee operations in total to run out for his first game since the 2012 grand final, played a key role in the Swans’ two-point win over Collingwood just last week.
The backman played on giant American Mason Cox, who finished with one goal.
Every one of Johnson’s 16 disposals was greeted with a loud cheer from the SCG crowd of 39,238.
But despite the heartbreaking injury to the Swans incumbent, Sydney were still able to snatch a victory over the Demons with just two men on the bench.
The Swans showed tremendous resilience to regroup and hold off a late Melbourne surge for a 13.9 (87) to 10.18 (78) victory.
The Demons trailed by 28 points at three-quarter time but got within seven points when skipper Nathan Jones kicked truly with five minutes on the clock.
Jones had another shot on goal minutes later but sprayed it wide and the Swans prevailed in front of a 51,424-crowd.
The loss is a potentially lethal blow for the Demons, who slip to seventh on the ladder and come up against West Coast (away) and GWS in their two remaining games.
Questions will continue to be asked about the resilience of the Demons, who remain winless against top-eight sides.
Sydney climb to sixth but were dealt a major blow with luckless backman Alex Johnson suffering a suspected torn ACL and Nick Smith injuring his hamstring.
Melbourne also had injury concerns with Hogan sitting out most of the third quarter with a lower-leg issue and Jayden Hunt hobbled by a foot injury.
Ruckman Max Gawn had his right calf strapped after failing to train earlier in the week and was well down on his usual impact around the ground.
Sydney trailed early but piled on six straight goals in 15 minutes during a dominant second term to snatch a 14-point lead at the major break.
Melbourne led the inside-50 count at halftime but were killed by inaccuracy in front of goal with a scoreline of 3.12 compared to Sydney’s 7.2.
The Swans dominated clearances and contested possessions in the third term to open up their lead at the final break before withstanding a late Demons comeback.
Best-afield Isaac Heeney (19 disposals, two goals) stood tall with several clutch marks in critical moments, including a high-flying mark of the year contender over Hogan.
Lance Franklin booted two majors in an intriguing battle with Sam Frost while skipper Josh Kennedy and Jake Lloyd were also influential.