Main content
Melbourne Football Club

‘Tassie’ Johnson sadly passes away

THREE-time Melbourne premiership player and former skipper Robert ‘Tassie’ Johnson has sadly passed away after a long battle with illness.

He was aged 77.

Johnson played 202 matches for Melbourne from 1959-69, including the 1959-60 and 1964 premierships.

He was also captain of the club in 1969 – his final VFL season.

Hailing from North Launceston, he was nicknamed ‘Tassie’ at Melbourne, due to the prominence of other Johnsons at the club, including the affectionately known Robert ‘Big Bob’ Johnson.

‘Tassie’ initially had to sit out of football after being recruited by the Demons, as he was waiting for a clearance from North Launceston. The dispute by the VFL and the Tasmanian league forced him to miss the entire 1958 season.

He then made his VFL debut in round one, 1959 against Richmond at Punt Road.

Although he played most of his football in Tasmania at full-forward or centre half-forward, Johnson became one of the VFL’s best defenders, particularly at full-back. By the time he played in the 1964 flag, he played in the back-pocket, with pinch-hitting duties in the ruck.

Cool and calm under pressure, he also provided plenty of dash and fluency from defence.

Johnson was also regarded as one of the longest – and best – drop kicks in the game. He developed an outstanding kicking technique, by booting a beach ball against a wall as a youngster.  

He finished second in Melbourne’s best and fairest in 1966 and was promoted to vice-captain in 1967.

A Victorian representative in 12 matches, Johnson was also a member of Australia’s 1968 Galah's World Tour – a precursor to the International Rules series as we know it today.

Johnson received Melbourne life membership in 1968 and in round 16, 1969, he became the first Tasmanian to play 200 VFL games, before retiring at the end of the year.

His last game was round 20, 1969 against South Melbourne at Lake Oval.

In 1971, he became captain/coach of Box Hill in the VFA.

Johnson was later named in Melbourne and Tasmania’s team of the century – both at full-back.

He was also inducted into the Hall of Fame for Melbourne and Tasmania. And in 2008, he was named a member of Melbourne’s 150 Heroes.

He is regarded as one of Melbourne's greats.