CRITICS have been circling GWS Giants veteran Steve Johnson for weeks, but he says coach Leon Cameron’s opinion is the only one he’s interested in.
Johnson on Saturday credited Cameron’s instructions for his last-minute match-winning goal against Collingwood and believes he is steadily getting back to his best after an injury interrupted pre-season.
Despite being at the top of the AFL ladder, critics claimed that at 33, Johnson had played on for a year longer than he should have.
“I don’t feel like I need to answer the critics,” Johnson told the Daily Telegraph.
“I get picked for what I can bring to the team on any given week, I don’t get picked on reputation. Comments made from people external to the club doesn’t worry me too much.”
Johnson admitted he wasn’t completely impervious to the barbs aimed in his direction.
“I do hear it,” Johnson said.
“People have the right to say what they do. I’m realistic I know the end (of my career) is near but I can also play a role for the team. I can do a job for the coach and I feel like my fitness is building again. My touch is still a bit off but I feel like it’s coming together. I feel like I’m ready to continue on from where I played on Saturday.”
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As well as kicking two vital goals against the Magpies, Johnson also gathered 24 disposals. It came on top of an improved performance against St Kilda the week before.
“I’ve had clear instructions from the coach to get to as many front and square contests as I can,” Johnson said.
“There’s been times when I have been getting past the contest and he just wanted me to get to the front. That message was ringing in my ears as the long ball went into the forward line. I could have taken the low percentage play and gone out the back and if it does go out there it often is an easy goal but I decided to cut to the front. It fell into my hands and was a bit lucky but not really because that’s what Leon had instructed me to do.”
The year is unfolding in a similar way to his last season at Geelong when he started slowly after an injury disrupted pre-season and then finished strongly to kick 30 goals for the season and finish in the top 10 in the Cats’ best and fairest.
“The way my body felt on Saturday it’s still got a bit of life in it,” Johnson said.
“It feels very similar to my last year at Geelong. It will come back a lot quicker this season because I was able to do a fair bit of running. At Geelong I took till the last six weeks before I really sharpened up. It was always going to be a slow start. The numbers aren’t going to be the same as last year but I don’t focus on them.”