In far flung pastures across local sporting fields, the sniper lies in wait for the unaware. On any given weekend, you can find torn hamstrings being half-heartedly iced with cold beer cans before being inevitably consumed with haste and fulfilment. Dodgy backs reign supreme from a week of laborious work and a pre-match perception that stretching isn’t necessary. Creaking ankles that the doc demanded you rest for 6 months come within inches of destruction as you pound in off the long run-up hunting that cocky middle-order pinch hitter. It’s the perfect breeding ground for the sniper to take his shot at a knee, an ankle, or a shoulder.
Alex Johnson is a rare professional that the sniper has taken a liking to. The Swans premiership player just can not escape the marksmanship aimed at his knees. Two weeks ago, we were celebrating his victory from a mountain top with full voice. He had beaten the odds to return to the top grade after 5 years and as many operations in exile. Sadly, just two weeks into his triumphant return, the sharpshooter returned to the stands of the MCG and fired another shot into his leg. It was a moment of such sickening peril, that the sniper could be so cruel to a man who has fought so valiantly to defeat him.
Alex Johnson’s journey carries affinity to all part time sportspeople across this country. Every local hero reflects on how their sporting life was cut short by crippling physical ailments. There are the types that claim their destiny to the professional arena was halted by ligaments. There are the types that engage in serious arguments with their significant other about the payoff of sport when the price is so large. There are the types who simply struggle to get out of bed in the morning thanks to the sniper and wonder why they do it. I can forgive Alex Johnson for feeling like a mix of those types, right now.
The difference between Alex Johnson and the layperson is in the recovery. Most local battlers fail to deal with an injury correctly, which invariably results in a follow up visit from the sniper. That’s where his story is so baffling. A man who has done all that he can to repair the damage has now been targeted for the sixth time. Perhaps it's time to visit the German clinic that fixed Kobe Bryant’s knee after a solitary visit? Or the traditional Fijian doctor who healed Rugby player Waisake Naholo’s broken leg with Kava and good vibes?
Usually when the Sniper loads his weapon, is when the local doesn’t adhere to correct recovery process. Without detection, the sniper will shoot you right in the sweet spot to end your sporting participation. Sometimes it’s temporary, others it is permanent. Warnings are cast aside without careful consideration, and the local sportspeople falls victim time and time again. Tales of sorrow often ensue, and that flying winger who tears a calf muscle haring down the blindside will have to wonder if it’s all worth it. It takes time to build up the courage to take the field once more and sometimes, it is best to bow out early.
Alex Johnson now faces the question that many in the local leagues have faced before. Do I give it another crack? I fear that if he chooses to keep fighting that the sniper knows his target all to well. The sniper lies in wait around every footballing corner when Johnson takes the field. Whatever path the gallant soldier chooses to walk, he will have full support from all of us. Whilst it is a certainty that the sniper will never go away, neither Alex Johnson nor the local punter should let the sniper dictate their career. All the best, AJ.