The chance to play football with his three nephews has led Collingwood premiership player Ben Johnson to Roxburgh Park Football Club.
The Magpies last week announced that Johnson, who played 235 AFL games for the Pies, had signed on with the club for the Essendon District Football League division 1 season.
Magpies coach Michael Farrelly said it was exciting to get someone of Johnson’s calibre at the club. Johnson retired from the AFL at the end of the 2013 season.
Farrelly said he believed it was the first time that Roxburgh had a former AFL player at the club.
“It’s been in the works since before Christmas,” he said.
“He did a session on Wednesday and looked good and looked fit. He hasn’t played properly in the last few years, but his knowledge, experience, skills and stories will help 10-fold.
“His ability to play the game hasn’t gone away.
“Wednesday was the biggest number of people we’ve had at training in my four years there.”
Farrelly said the conversation started between Johnson and his nephews and it went from there. When it was put to the club, there was no hesitation.
Zac, Luke and Nathan Reichelt have all joined the club in recent years. The 2021 season is set to be their first one altogether at the Magpies.
Farrelly said they hadn’t spoken about how many games Johnson may play.
Johnson has most recently played superules football and was planning to continue this year to keep fit.
Johnson is the third former Collingwood player to sign with EDFL division 1 sides for this year, including “ratpack” member Heath Shaw.
Farrelly said he expected a bit of banter between the two, with Johnson also friends with East Keilor coach Pat Christofi.
Former Collingwood defender Lynden Dunn has also signed with West Coburg.
The signing caps off a strong pre-season for the Magpies as they look to build on their 2019 performancee when they defied critics and avoided relegation.
The 2020 season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Farrelly said things were positive at the club.
Trent Fisher, a premiership player with Glenroy has signed, while Brad Dimech, who tried to get cleared for last season is officially returning.
“We’re really lucky to have a group that we have,” he said.
“It is so positive and the vibe is huge … a ripping group of boys. Everyone loves the joint and doesn’t want to leave.
“They’re hungry to learn.”
The Magpies are set to kick off their season on April 10 against the Sunbury Kangaroos.