DOB: 3 June 1935
Died: 21 May 2001
From: Hughesdale Juniors/De La Salle
Premiership player - 1955, 1956, 1957, 1959, 1960
Grand Final player - 1954, 1958
Victorian state player - 1957, 1958, 1959 and 1960 (9 games)
Team of the Century - Emergency
MFC Hall of Fame - 2003
Best First Year Player - 1954
Life Member - 1998
150 Heroes selection
AFL Hall of Fame inductee - 2012
The son of Robert C Johnson, 'Big Bob' could kick a goal like his dad but it was as a 198cm ruckman that he would become better known. Johnson had debuted as captain of the thirds in 1954, but played only eight games before he was promoted to the seconds. He made his senior debut just two weeks later, and in his day was one of the tallest players ever to appear in the VFL.
That first season yielded 23 goals from 11 senior matches, and five Brownlow Medal votes. Not surprisingly he was voted Best First Year Player, as the side shocked the footballing world by going all the way to the Grand Final. In all Johnson played eight consecutive Grand Finals with the thirds and seniors between 1952 and 1959.
Splitting his time between the ruck and forward line, Johnson became one of the prime movers of his side's glory era. His setup with Athol Webb as a decoy forward was a famous feature of the era. He also had a habit of playing for, and often winning, free kicks which would infuriate opposition fans. In 1955 he formed a menacing ruck combination with Denis Cordner and played in the winning Grand Final side.
When Cordner retired the big ruckman came into his own. He had already been deadly in the middle, and equally effective when rested up forward, but in 1956 he kicked 43 goals in 19 games - including 7 against Essendon in round 9 - and played in a second Grand Final victory. Another followed in 1957. He played in the next two grand finals, for a loss and a win.
Battling illness and injury throughout the 1960 season, Johnson nevertheless played 16 games including the Grand Final triumph where he was one of the sides best. He suffered his first injury in a pre-season match, then an allergy from an infection left him badly weakened throughout the year.
At 27-years-old Bob left Melbourne and joined East Fremantle in the WAFL as a captain-coach for 1965. That year they won the premiership, and in 110 games for the Sharks he led them to four grand finals in a row. In 1966 he kicked 107 goals for the season to top the WAFL goalkicking. During his time in Perth he was selected to play for WA and booted 5 goals in a 1967 loss to Victoria.
After also serving as a playing assistant coach at Subiaco, Johnson was linked to Essendon as a potential successor to John Coleman in 1968 but instead took up an offer to captain/coach Hamilton Imperials before later taking over at Oakleigh in the VFA.
His first season saw more coaching than playing after breaking his ankle in the first game of the season, but the next year - aged 36 - he kicked 11 goals from 11 kicks in a game at age 36 en route to 91 for the season. With 69 more in 1972 he led the Devils to the Association flag. He had initially retired during 1970 after suffering a broken leg.
After missing out on the Melbourne Reserves coaching job in 1971 Johnson coached Oakleigh from that year until 1974, captain/coaching the Oaks to their first VFA premiership in 1972 then retiring. He briefly returned in late 1973 but was reported and suspended for abusive language in his first game back. He returned for another season as coach in 1976 but the club finished bottom of the First Division.
He applied for Melbourne's senior job at the end of both 1973 and 1976, but was rejected both times - instead captain/coaching McKinnon in the Federal League and Greensborough of the Diamond Valley League before retiring at 43.
|Round 16, 1960||Obscene Language||2 matches|
Sporting Globe - 10/07/1954
"Big Bob signed" - The Age 23/09/1967
"Big Bob has had enough" - The Age 28/05/1970
Inside Football - July 1971
"Bob got his weight back to earth and soared off" - The Age 05/08/1971
"Big Bob lasts one game - outed" - The Age 29/08/1973
"Demon rebels gain support" - Canberra Times 27/08/1985