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Freo's Johnson to retire at season's end

By Chris Pike 4:31 PM Wed 20 August, 2008

Fremantle's Mark Johnson has announced his retirement

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UTILITY Mark Johnson believes his career has closure after a rewarding year at Fremantle followed a disappointing end at his previous club Essendon.

Johnson announced on Wednesday that this season will be his last, and is pleased to have given his all throughout a career that began in 1999 and concluded with the opportunity to play football outside of Melbourne.

The 30-year-old was delisted by Essendon at the end of 2007, after 194 games and a place in its 2000 premiership side, only to be thrown a lifeline by Fremantle which allowed him to reach 200 games.

Johnson was initially reluctant to end with fanfare, but was talked around by coach Mark Harvey.

"I was more than happy to see the last two games out and fade out of the game but Harvs gave me an insight to him going out on a high in his career and he thought it would be good to get my family and friends involved," Johnson said.

"I have this special Melbourne game with them against Richmond and then back here against the Magpies.

"At the end of last year it didn't seem quite right to finish my career but at the end of this year I'm very comfortable with it and it seems like the right time.

"I've really enjoyed getting over here and becoming part of Fremantle. I've enjoyed meeting Pav (Matthew Pavlich), seeing Spider (Aaron Sandilands) grow over the year, as well as (Rhys) Palmer, Ibbo (Garrick Ibbotson) and Clayton Hinkley, who I came over here with.

"The club is in really good shape and I'm happy to be leaving at this time."

Harvey was questioned early in the year for his decision to recruit Johnson but still has no regrets.

"He's brought a lot to this football club and, in time, you guys will get to speak to the younger players about Mark Johnson and his time here and they'll be full of praise," he said.

"Not for one moment [do I regret picking him up]."

The premiership with the Bombers is Johnson's highlight, while playing his last game on the same weekend as former teammate Jason Johnson has fitting symmetry.

"I and my teammates won the ultimate in the AFL and it's something I will always have with them," he said. "It's something that will always give us a bond and it's something I'm ultra-proud of because it's all I ever wanted to do.

"It's good that I'm retiring in the same year as Jason Johnson and I will be going to watch him in his second last game and then go back over for his final one next Sunday.

"His body's probably worse off than mine with his foot problems, but I love the fact that I've gone in with Jason, we went through a lot of highs and lows, and we have come out the other side as best mates."

As for his future, Johnson will head back to Melbourne with some intention of coaching at any level.

"Coaching is something I'm definitely looking at," he said. "I believe coaching is about getting the best out of a person and I love doing that. Not for any real benefit to myself but I love seeing them get the best out of what they have.

"I called my younger brother (Geelong's David Johnson) to tell him that I'm retiring today and I'm happy because I got the most out of myself.

"I told him that I hope he can say the same thing when he retires."

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