Sam’s swivel thanks to whirlwind few years

SOME may describe what Samantha Johnson has gotten to experience in the past few years as a bit of a whirlwind.

From getting a second chance at her AFLW dream to becoming a mum and returning to her VFLW side, it certainly has been a jam packed few years for her.

Johnson was originally drafted to St Kilda ahead of their entry in 2020, she played for Casey before being drafted by Melbourne.

She said that getting a second chance at the AFLW was “pretty unexpected.”

“It was really exciting because I was at a club that I ended up at Melbourne, which I was really familiar with the club and a lot of the players, so it was a seamless transition back into an AFLW program,” she said.

“It was the best result out of all the clubs I potentially could have gone to, and I spoke to a few in the lead up to the draft. I was very fortunate to end up at Melbourne. “

She was drafted to the Dees ahead of Season 7 and was on the list for two seasons before ultimately being delisted after the 2023 season. She played three games for the Dees before finding out she was pregnant with her son Luca.

 “So I was probably at my fittest and at my best at the time I was drafted,” said Johnson.

“Then a month into preseason training, I actually found out I was pregnant with my son. So that was a bit of a quick turnaround from the excitement of being drafted and playing AFLW to then realising I was going to become a mother and that meant my whole year was going to look completely different to what I had originally envisioned.

“So I just remember finding out I was pregnant and I told Mick Stinear pretty much within the first week or two that I knew, just to sort of develop a bit of a plan moving forward, and that was very much that I still wanted to play. If I was up to the standard and up for selection and I was allowed to do that and able to play three games.

“But then it was time for me to take a step back and announce to the teammates that I was pregnant and expecting my child, and my role essentially changed from being a player to helping out the younger players that have come into the program and providing a bit of leadership there, but also helping out with the scrimmage matches, and even during trainings, I was still jumping in with the coaches and being a defender and doing whatever I could whilst looking after my body.”

The timing of the pregnancy did mean that she unfortunately had to miss out on playing in the club’s biggest game to date, the Season 7 Grand Final. However, she was “was really excited” for the game.

“I’ve followed Melbourne’s journey for a long time since they joined the AFLW and they’ve always been up there in finals,” she said. “So I think the vibe was very much that there was a strong belief between the group, whether we were playing or not, that we had a really good shot at winning the premiership.”

“Of course I would have loved to have been out there and had an opportunity to play in that game, but I had something else that was very exciting in my life happening. So for me, I was taking in all the emotion that the girls were feeling, it was actually really fun being able to be there and support them on the day and being able to celebrate with all the girls.

“Of course I would have loved to have physically played, but even just being a part of the squad and part of the premiership year was something really special and I’ll hold on to those memories for a very long time.”

Johnson said that becoming a mum has changed her mindset about life outside of footy as opposed to giving her a different perspective about footy.

“I’m not too sure if it’s changed much in terms of my perspective around footy. I think I’ve just changed mindset in terms of finding a bit more purpose to life outside of footy,” she said.

“So for me, I’m very lucky to be able to spend time with my son at home during the day and then go have my time to fill my cup with all my friends at football.

“So I wouldn’t say it’s changed my perspective on footy, but I would say that I appreciate my time at footy maybe a bit more because I know that it fills my cup and gives me the energy and love that I need to come home and then give that to my son.”

While most players would be frustrated about being delisted from an AFLW club, Johnson had a very different perspective on the decision.

“I wouldn’t say I was frustrated,” she said.

“To be honest, I had some very open and honest conversations with both Mick Stinear and List Manager Todd Patterson, so I feel like I had a good understanding on my position within the squad and the value that I brought to the program.

“I think based on where the program was at and the personnel, they were looking to add some younger talent into the side and that meant that my position was very uncertain for a long time there.

“I was very much committed to staying if the opportunity was there and giving everything that I could, but I certainly understood that the club was looking at making some changes and bringing in some younger talent and that meant that unfortunately I did end up delisted. But, I think you can sort of see the fact that I’ve ended back up at the Casey Demons means that there’s no bad blood there and there’s no ill feelings towards the Melbourne Demons. I’m still very much on the sidelines and cheering those girls on.

“I was very thankful and appreciative of my time and all the time and effort that they put into me over the two seasons.”

While she has not ruled out a return to the AFLW completely, it is not a goal she is actively chasing any more.

“I suppose never say never,” she said. “For me, I feel like I’m going to be 32 this year, so if I were to end up back on a list, I don’t think it would be for a long term opportunity.

“I really just want to play some footy, get my fitness back, play amongst all my friends that I love playing for.”

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