Wayne Johnston Retired VFL Champion Player
Wayne Johnston was a famous Australian Rules football player. He played for the Blues for most of his career.
He originally played for the Prahran Football Club, also known as The Two Blues. While he was playing for the Two Blues, Wayne Johnston was invited by Carlton to train with them, but he was rejected and came back to Prahran.
Following his rejection, he played in premierships for the Two Blues and his performance at the games highlighted him as the team’s star player. Considering his performance, Melbourne and Carlton both wanted to recruit him, but Wayne went on to play for Carlton and remained with the club till his retirement.Playing Career with the Prahran Football Club
Wayne Johnston was eighteen when he was recruited by the Prahran Football Club in 1975. He played as a half-forward for the team. His ball winning skills and strong left foot landed the Prahrans into a few Victorian Football League finals. He played 68 games for the team and scored 173 goals. Johnston was among the top three for the club’s Best and Fairest award. Due to his performance for the Two Blues from 1975 to 1979, he was included in the Prahran’s Team of the Century three decades later.
Johnston highlighted himself in the 1978 VFA Grand final and caught the eye of the Melbourne Football Club, which offered him a chance to be a part of the Demons. At the same time, Carlton showed an interest in trying out Johnston for a second time. In the pre-season practice of 1979, the Blues gave him another shot and Wayne was put up against another upcoming VFL star, Phil Cleary. The game was held at Princess Park and Johnston scored four goals before half-time, winning Carlton’s approval over Cleary. Wayne rejected Melbourne’s offer and decided to become a Blue.
Playing Career with the Carlton Football Club
Wayne Johnston joined Carlton as a high-flank and played besides Mark Maclure and Trevor Keogh. Shortly after he joined the Blues, they were able to mark a comfortable victory at the Waverly Park against Essendon. During the season, he was one of the team’s top performers and contributed towards their win against Melbourne in the semi-final. Due to his team’s success, it was able to move on to the Grand Final where they faced Collingwood.
Collingwood had defeated Carlton in the 1978 season and the team was very eager to face them again. The Blues secured the premiership after their victory over Collingwood in the Grand Final. Johnston was very steady at tackling, and because of this he won the hearts of many football fans. On the way to the Grand Final of the 1979 VFL season, Carlton only lost 3 games which was a sign of Wayne’s contribution towards the team.
The 1979 Grand Final was Johnston’s 20th VFL game; Collingwood had gained the initial lead by scoring five goals. However, Johnston, Fitzpatrick and Francis dominated the field and helped Carlton gain the lead by four points by the last quarter and went on to defeat the Magpies by five points. The Blues had won their 12th Premiership. This was also celebration for Wayne Johnston as this was his debut season and he had already played his first Premiership.
The Blues didn’t get enough time to celebrate their 12th Premiership as there was a dispute among the board members. The same dispute was also the main reason behind the club’s president being voted out of the office. The club’s president George Harris was friends with Alex Jesaulenko, the Blues’ captain coach. Alex also left once Harris was voted off and the Blues were left without a coach. So Peter Jones was made the coach.
Initially, Jones took the Blues to second place and then the team suffered a series of losses. Although, Carlton wasn’t able to gain a significant rank, Johnston was making his mark as a footballer, and came up as the top scorer for the club with an impressive 51 goals in his second season.
In the 1981 season, Johnston had an injury which rendered him unable to play until the middle of the season. Even then he wasn’t able to perform to his full potential. However, Carlton managed to make it to the Grand Finals again to meet up with their arch nemesis Collingwood. The Blues gained their 13th premiership as Carlton finished with a 20 point lead over Collingwood. Wayne Johnston had taken a fall at the hands of Rene Kink earlier in the game, but he came back and delivered a signature performance around the end.
In 1982, Johnston drove the Blues to a victory over Hawthorn. This victory landed the Blues in third place on the ladder. The only thing that bothered the Blues after their victory was the fact that their two star players may be suspended, Wayne Johnston for two weeks and Peter Bosustow for one week. If these players were to be suspended, Carlton would be playing the Grand Finals without Johnson. However, that didn’t happen as Richmond defeated Carlton and the Blues met with Hawthorn in another match in the Preliminary Finals.
In the Preliminary Final against Hawthorn, Carlton again defeated them by five goals and went on to the Grand Final to face the Tigers. Fortunately for the Blues, Johnston was able to play the Grand Final. During the early minutes of the game Johnston delivered a great performance and the Blues were leading with 19 points. However, there was a hailstorm which resulted in an injury to Wayne and Ken Hunter. Although the Blues were playing without their star player, they won the Grand Final of the 1982 VFL season.
After the retirement of Mike Fitzpatrick in 1983, Wayne Johnston stepped up to claim the position of the team captain and led the team for two years. Under his leadership, the team was a strong finalist, but it sadly never went past the semi-finals. In 1986 right after Carlton swapped coaches with Fitzroy, Johnston surrendered his position to Mark Maclure. After the Blues had a new coach, they proceeded to the Grand Final again, but they were not able to secure victory against Hawthorn.
The 1987 VFL season added yet another premiership to Carlton’s name, and Johnston became one of the few who to play four premierships for the club. The following year, Carlton faced Collingwood at the MCG in the Qualifying Final. Wayne was playing in the centre and was clearly the best on the field as he took on three opponents all by himself. In the second semi-final in the 1988 VFL season, the Blues faced their arch rival Hawthorn. This match resulted in a huge loss for the Blues as their star player Wayne Johnston suffered a serious injury.
Johnston ended up with three broken ribs after suffering a hit from Gary Ayres of Hawthorn. The Blues not only lost the match against their arch rivals, but also took another surprising defeat at the hands of Melbourne. This ended the 1988 season on a very disappointing note for the Blues.
Despite his fitness concerns, Johnston was determined to play the 1989 season. However, he suffered another hit to his ribcage and wasn’t fit to play another game for the entire season. Wayne returned in 1990 to play another season, but his injuries seemed to be taking a toll on him and he was finally asked to retire by the Carlton committee.
Honours And Awards
In consideration of his contribution towards the club, the Carlton Football Club Hall of Fame inducted Wayne Johnston. In addition, he won the club’s Best and Fairest award twice in 1983 and 1986. He was also the captain for the Blues from 1984 to 1985.
Wayne Johnston has been married twice. His first wife was Debbie Johnston and they had five children. His marriage broke up in 1999 because of the emotional stress caused by the death of his son Matt. Afterwards, Johnston moved to Melbourne where he met his second wife Kate Kendall. In 2004, he married her and the couple currently have a four-year old boy. All of Johnston’s sons from his first wife Debbie are footballers. One of his sons Marc plays for the Sandringham Football Club in the VFL.
Though his legacy continues through his children, Wayne Johnston’s achievements on the field definitely ensure that his name will never be forgotten by Australian football lovers.