Why Kobe’s death rocked proud dad Johannisen
Jason Johannisen didn't need a hashtag to prove the connection between him and his beautiful new daughter Lola Blair.
That perfect package arrived in November and has immediately consumed the lives of 26-year-old Johannisen and partner Logan Shine.
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Kobe Bryant's shock death and declaration that he was a "girl dad" set off a spate of viral tweets of fathers declaring their love for their daughters.
Johannisen's own social media shot this week under the #girldad hashtag shows a glowing father content with his sleeping child.
But as Johannisen told the Herald Sun on the last afternoon of a 10-day Queensland training camp late last week, he has been waiting for a very long time for a relationship that is only just starting.
"She was born in November and it's just been amazing. I have always wanted to be a father and it's just indescribable. The feeling of being a father is just awesome and it's so cool to start our family together,'' Johannisen said.
"I was explaining to Jackson Trengove, I have always wanted to have a girl. It is just something about the connection between a dad and daughter, it's just so special.''
Just as Bryant saw the wondrous possibilities for his daughter Gianna's ability to chase any sporting dream, so too can Johannisen.
Growing up an NBA devotee he admits his loyalties were elsewhere, but Bryant's death has sparked a week of poignant reflection and discussion among sporting clubs about his life and legacy.
"I became an NBA fan through the rise of LeBron James and he was always my number one player. It was quite funny because growing up I just hated Kobe, he was so good and too good and I didn't like that, but obviously over the past week it has been emotional for a lot of people,'' Johannisen said.
"Even at our footy club, he has left such a legacy. He was such an iconic person to look up to in terms of getting the best out of yourself. Even as a father, knowing his daughter was with him, it is just heartbreaking. It's devastating what happened.
"Just watching Ash Barty over the Australian Open, it's so powerful (what women can achieve) and just whatever she wants to do, I will be there as a proud dad and whatever she wants to chase, I will be there supporting her."
Three months in Lola is a perfect sleeper, good news given Johannisen can't wait to have her there at the Bulldogs season-opener against Collingwood at Marvel Stadium on Friday March 20.
The Norm Smith medallist and his teammates know the hype that has followed them over summer, and with good reason.
Why wouldn't it, given ex-Dog Josh Bruce rounds out a forward line with Aaron Naughton, Josh Schache and Bailey Dale and ex-Crow Alex Keath bolsters a backline already boasting Easton Wood and Zaine Cordy.
Heck, the midfield might end the year as the best in footy given the firepower of Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Trengove, Lachie Hunter, Josh Dunkley, Mitch Wallis and Bailey Smith.
Add in kids like Ed Richards, Tim English, first-year small forward Cody Weightman and the talent is off the charts for a list with just three 30-plus players (Wood, Tory Dickson, Matt Suckling).
No one at Whitten Oval is making excuses for the dismal fade out against GWS in the elimination final, but Johannisen can feel proud of a year of hanging tough.
A high ankle sprain wiped out his pre-season but despite the dreaded syndesmosis injury he rebounded to finish fourth in the club's best-and-fairest despite missing the first three games.
A player once easily shut-out by taggers attempting to dull his matchwinning brilliance had proved his mental toughness.
"It wasn't ideal. I didn't do any pre-season and was coming off hip surgery. I had initially thought it was my knee because of the twisting motion but just had to take it easy in a moon boot. We have great support staff here with performance and rehab and they were able to get me going by Round 4,'' Johannisen said.
"It was just nice to get a bit of consistency and especially in the second half of the season when we were pushing for finals to get some consistent performance."
Johannisen's take on the physical beating handed out by GWS is that it was an aberration the Dogs plan to rectify this season.
"The physical part of the game we got beaten up a bit but we are up for the challenge. We know we can resurrect that and we won't make the same mistake again. It's just the mindset. We don't want to bash and crash at training but it's mindset in the back of the head and that's what it takes to play AFL football," he said.
Johannisen concedes his fashion interest in streetwear and the kind of Brownlow outfits that turn heads have taken a back set given his busy summer.
But after once rocking the bleached hair as a tribute to NFL star Odell Beckham Jr, his dark locks are about to undergo another transformation.
Teammate Matt Suckling bleached his own hair after raising $5000 for Bushfire relief, but when he hit a target of $10,000 it meant Johannisen was roped in as well.
He would love to play in the AFL's Bushfire relief game to round out the fundraising campaign.
"When I get back to Melbourne the blonde locks are back. It's all for a good cause. Suckers set the goal and he achieved it so I am happy to do it too.
"It would be such an honour to play in that game. As a kid I grew up watching those games so it would be awesome to put my hand up and see if I get selected. I am a WA boy and to play with Lance Franklin would be awesome. I don't know if he's fit enough but it would be an amazing experience to play with such great players."