Johnson match-up would be great story, says Menzel
DANIEL Menzel says it would be a dream to match up against Sydney defender Alex Johnson as he nears a return from five knee reconstructions.
The Herald Sun revealed Johnson was as few as four weeks from a NEAFL return after four years of pain and 12 knee surgeries.
The pair share nine reconstructions, with Cats forward Menzel saying he was happy to lose the mantle of the player to return from the most ACL ruptures.
Remarkably Menzel says some professional skiers have returned from up to seven ACL ruptures but the Cats goalsneak currently holds the AFL's most unenviable record.
Menzel and Johnson have shared many insights into their journeys, with both players using American rehab expert Bill Knowles to fast-track recoveries.
He said that while most would consider any return for Johnson, the Swans defender should aim to get back to his best.
"I only spoke to him a few weeks back and to hear he is so close is incredible and I am so pumped for him," Menzel said.
"As one of not that many people who can really understand what he has been through and the work he has had to do, just playing is great.
"But he wants more much than that and I think he can do it. Everyone will say just let him get back into the NEAFL first but in his own mind he will be looking ahead and hoping he can take his chance in the AFL.
"I thought about it this morning. Alex and I could one day line up on each other and that would be pretty special."
Johnson was once one of the AFL's most encouraging defenders, and could eventually team up with Aliir Aliir and Dane Rampe in the Swans' back six.
Menzel said Johnson had a chance to thrive because of better surgical techniques but also elite rehab and sports science assistance.
So many players once returned from ACL surgery diminished, yet Menzel still has his spring, speed and lateral movement.
The classy Cats forward is in career-best form with 13 goals so far, finally able to train more regularly with full confidence in his body and knee.
"I still get asked about it every single week and to be honest I don't think about the knee going in or during the game," Menzel said.
"I have had a couple of instances where I have landed and had a small jolt in the knee and it's only a jolt and the knee is fine.
"It's a great feeling. I know I am not quite out of danger but it's progressing so well.
"As much as anything my body is holding up and giving me the best chance in six years of playing like I know I have been able to.
"I had a chop-out at training last week when we had a long week and will miss a game in the next 4-6 weeks but I am feeling much better than last year."
Johnson told SEN he never considered quitting despite repeatedly receiving that advice.
"Three or four surgeons said I probably should give it away. It has been a really long journey. Footballers are most comfortable when they are playing and part of the group, and training every week.
"I've spent a lot of time on my own in the dungeon working hard by myself.
"At times it has been really lonely, but I've always had my goal firmly set on returning to the AFL and that's always been at the forefront of my mind."