The Second Coming

:grinning: I do remember that “Pope” image that was created on here … somebody must have a copy

Former Essendon player Courtney Johns talks about his life as an AFL cult figure

FORMER Essendon forward Courtney Johns has opened up about the sometimes bizarre attention that came with being the Bombers’ “next big thing”.

The Johns legend grew as he waited three years for his AFL debut after being recruited in the 2002 rookie draft, with coach Kevin Sheedy dubbing him “the Southern Aurora”.

His hulking frame, blond dreadlocks and having the legendary coach as his No. 1 cheerleader combined for a surreal life for a young player trying to overcome a horror hip injury.

“I remember seeing a photo of a picture of the Pope with my head superimposed over the top — it was truly bizarre,” Johns said.

“Looking back know, I just think, ‘What the hell was going on?’, but that’s just the game and people live and breathe it.”

In March 2003, Sheedy told the Herald Sun to take a photograph of Johns training. “Just put it in your files and keep it ready,’’ Sheedy said at the time.

“He started calling me different names in the media and I think that’s where it began,” Johns said.

“I started hearing these nicknames that were coming out and, as a young kid, I didn’t get it. I was just excited to be talked about and playing well.

“The Southern Aurora, which is apparently a train, I had no idea what Sheeds was talking about. He loves to have a bit of a gag with the media and it just so happened that there was a period where I was the topic. Another one was ‘The Messiah’, which was somewhat amusing, but it’s all a bit of fun. I didn’t worry too much about them.”

In an interview with the AFL Players Association, Johns vividly describes the injury that ruined his dream of being a top-10 draft pick.

Johns was up-ended while playing for East Fremantle reserves, dislocating his hip and damaging the tendons around his hip socket.

“I just had this almighty shock and didn’t really know what was going on … I went to take a step and it was like I didn’t have a leg — I could not feel a thing. By the time I got off the ground, it was pure agony.”

He attended the draft camp but couldn’t take part in any drills and his medical was a disaster — one doctor told clubs not to touch Johns.

“To find that out and then miss the draft was brutal as a kid.

“I was fortunate that Kevin Sheedy was still in the game because he’s a guy who loves a story. He took me as a rookie.”

Johns eventually made his debut in 2005 and played 21 matches — kicking 18 goals — before his career ended in 2008. He now plays for Aberfeldie in the Essendon district league.

“I had an annoying career but that’s by no means unique, the majority of players have probably had that,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you’re any less of a person but it just didn’t click for me in that environment. I’m happy and proud that I gave it a crack but unfortunately it just didn’t work out.”


Annoying career: top of the list. being told to play on Scott Pendlebury on Anzac Day.


good to hear that he can sit back and have a bit of a chuckle about it

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I believe it was our own @Bomb_Doe

I believe it was not our own @Bomb_Doe.


Wasn’t that Paul Medhurst?

I was in the veterans motorcade at the start of the day and the AFL gave me access to one of the free bars. I was in my seat for the Last Post and minutes silence, then saw Johns line up at HBF on Medhurst. Spent the rest of the day in the bar making the most of the free booze.


Sounds look he has a very good head on his shoulders. Did well to just play AFL after his injury

A mate of mine is a firey and has worked with him. Says he’s a top bloke.

I wish we could have gotten his hip right early on. Will always be one of those “what if” players.


My answer to the thread is, Ï can’t do that no more".

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The experience with Johns is so similar to Gumby. I wonder how much a player is affected by missing years of football at that age, when they need to develop their game. I can’t think of anyone, off the top of my head, who has missed 3 season of football due to injury at the age of 19 or so, and has gone on to be a successful player. The injury itself might be healed, but the lost development seems to be irrecoverable.
Then again, Johns might be another example of a kid who looked promising but just never kicked on, and never would have, We’ll never know.

I emotionally invested heavily in Gumby. Still sucks.


Will be honest and say don’t remember much of his time/games with the club, apart from his hair.

The great white hype! I remember John Quinn talking him up in some article with quotes like “he is 100kgs of ripping muscle”. Got me excited at the time… Shame how it ended.

My mate met him at a bar on Mt Alexander Rd many years ago.
John’s downed about 5 jack and cokes and told my mate he was more than happy playing in the VFL

This was in the middle of the season too

To be fair, he never asked for the Sheedy hype train

He’s still a pretty big unit.



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Now I remember (vaguely) a VFL game at Windy Hill where he and teddy richards tore it apart. I think he kicked 6 or 7 and was taking pack marks like Carey.I believe Dean Rioli also put on a show.

I thought Johns was going to be an absolute star from what I saw, I think he went in for hip surgery the following week and wasn’t sighted for another year.

Now…my memory is generally for the tip, so all of the above could be a mish mash of memories over numerous games, and possible wet dreams. Hoping someone that was also there can confirm.

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I remember a game against Geelong where he came out of the forward line like a steam train, knocking over opposition players, gathering or marking (can’t remember) - and thinking it was a vision of what he was capable of. Did stuff all for the rest of the game and both teams were abysmal. Can’t recall who won. I think we might have snuck in.

Johns the Baptist (from BBlitz, circa 2008)