From: Hughesdale Juniors/De La Salle
Thirds captain - 1953
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 became better known as a 198cm ruckman. In his day he was one of the tallest to have ever played in the VFL. Johnson captained the Thirds to a premiership in 1953, then played a further eight games in 1954 before being promoted to the Seconds, and two games later the seniors.
He impressed with 13 marks on debut, and his 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 in 1975 and Greensborough of the Diamond Valley League in 1978 before retiring at 43.
|Round 16, 1960||Obscene Language||2 matches|
Herald - 19/05/1954
Argus - 06/07/1954
Sporting Globe - 10/07/1954
Age - 23/09/1967
Age - 28/05/1970
Inside Football - July 1971
Age - 05/08/1971
Age - 29/08/1973
Canberra Times - 27/08/1985
Herald Sun - 22/05/2001