Aligned Leisure's Austin Johnson will be a valuable part of the Richmond Tigers VFL side in 2023, solidifying his spot in the side across the early parts of the season.
Johnson is in his second year of playing VFL for the Tigers while working as a Duty Captain at Caulfield Aquatic Centre.
Managed by Aligned Leisure, Caulfield Aquatic Centre was founded to support Caulfield Grammar School students and the local community to learn to swim and have the ability to compete in their chosen sport of Swimming.
Johnson played such impressive football in 2021 for his local club Cheltenham that he was added to Frankston Dolphins' VFL development list mid-year. He trained there for a year, playing one game before COVID lockdowns ended the season prematurely.
In the off-season, an unexpected call from Richmond offering him a spot on their VFL list transformed his football career and allowed him to play consistent games for the Tigers.
Johnson kicked the opening goal in the Tigers' Round 2 match against Coburg and is currently averaging 15 disposals each week. While keen to keep improving his game, Johnson is enjoying his time in the VFL and the experiences that come with that.
"I think it's every kid's dream to play AFL, so I would be keen if that opportunity came up, but I'm not too stressed about it. If I'm just playing VFL and having fun, which I am, then I'm happy," he said.
"The AFL and VFL did a new thing this year where I got to train with the AFL players. I've probably trained there six times this year, which has been a great experience."
Currently working casually at Aligned Leisure as a Duty Captain, Johnson enjoys the flexibility both Richmond and Aligned Leisure can offer him.
"I'm training three or four times weekly, plus work and uni. Aligned Leisure is pretty helpful with a flexible roster, and Richmond helps me to plan out months in advance to avoid clashes with the VFL games," he said.
Aligned Leisure is a subsidiary of the Richmond Football Club, with Johnson beginning his work there when he was already a year into playing for the VFL Tigers.
"I started that a bit over a year ago now. I was a lifeguard before that. I heard it was a pretty good job from one of my mates who was there, so then I came down for an interview," he added.
"I've been lifeguarding since 2017, but Duty Captain is a bit of a promotion; I'm essentially running the centre (for that shift)."
As Duty Captain, Johnson is responsible for opening the centre in the morning, ensuring all equipment is available for swim classes, and doing pool quality tests daily.
"Coming from another leisure centre that was pretty full on, it's a more chilled-out vibe here, and everyone's up for a chat. The people make it enjoyable," Johnson said.
Alongside his work and football, Johnson is in his final year of studying for a Bachelor of Business, keeping his options open for future work opportunities.
After a disappointing loss to Gold Coast in Round 6, the VFL Tigers are sitting just outside the top 8 on the ladder but are hoping to attack the next phase of the season following last weekend's Round 7 bye.