DOB: 17 July 1980
From: Chelsea/Dandenong Stingrays U18, Selection #1, 1997 National Draft
Number: 16 (1998-2007)
Games: 160 (209 total)
Goals: 111 (135 total)
The grandson of former Fitzroy player Norm Johnstone was taken with the first pick of the 1997 Draft after making the All-Australian Under 16 and Under 18 sides. After 13 games in a promising debut season, his form dropped off along with most of his teammates in 1999 and he spent time in the Reserves.
Johnstone struggled with groin issues during 2000, and was often used as a burst player off the bench. A hamstring injury early in the year cost him eight weeks but he returned for the finals. At the end of that season, Johnstone signed a two year contract extension but surgery on his groin meant that he missed the first two months of the 2001 pre-season. His early years had shown promise, but too often he'd been the victim of injury and complacency. He admitted that year that he found it hard to come to terms with stardom.
After much criticism as an 'underachieving' top draft pick, 2002 was Johnstone's breakout year. Helped by the first full pre-season of his career, he finished fourth in the Brownlow Medal, and played the game of his career to date in the losing Semi Final against Adelaide. By comparison, 2003 was a disappointment. He battled hamstring injuries, was dropped to Sandringham more than once, and in July was revealed to owe $15,000 to a bookmaker.
In July 2003 it was revealed that Johnstone owed $15,000 to a bookmaker, and his '03 season was a disappointment after he had built credibility as one of the AFL's best midfielders the year before. More than once that year he was exiled to Sandringham to play with the seconds and he battled both and hamstring injuries. He returned to play another 16 games in 2004 but later revealed he was close to walking out on the club after that year, taking a 20% pay cut to turn back a move to Sydney and sign a new two year contract.
After two disappointing seasons, 2005 was one of Johnstone's best. He recaptured the form that had made him one of the best in the country in 2004, winning Melbourne's Best and Fairest in a finals year. He played every game of 2006 but fell to 10th in the Best and Fairest. At the end of 2007, Johnstone was traded to the Brisbane Lions in exchange for selection 14 in the 2007 National Draft, ultimately used to recruit Jack Grimes. Reminiscent of the Shane Woewodin trade, the club was deluged with angry calls from supporters, but like Woewodin, he never hit the same heights at his new club, playing 49 games for the Lions before being delisted at the end of 2010.
Johnstone later played in the Northern Territory for Palmerston, and in 2012 for Chelsea Heights.
|Round 21, 1999||Melee||$2000 fine|
|Round 21, 2000||Melee||$2500 fine|
|Round 2, 2004||Abusive Language||$1200 fine|
|Round 8, 2005||Melee||$1500 fine|
|Round 6, 2007||Abusive language||$900 fine|