By Matt Cleary
ALEX JOHNSTON returns to Accor Stadium on Saturday with 200 NRL games and 171 tries to his name.
That he notched a double last weekend in Magic Round against Melbourne Storm would have come as little surprise to Rabbitohs fans. Johnston is Souths’ all-time try-scoring record holder and has the most tries at Accor Stadium (82) ahead of fellow Rabbitoh Nathan Merritt (70) and Josh Morris (68).
On Saturday all league fans will have the chance to celebrate the star winger’s landmark in the round 11 match against Wests Tigers.
The humble 28-year-old will bolt onto the playing surface through a purpose-built banner while thousands of fans will don AJ facemasks. A presentation post-match will be attended by supporters gathered on Accor Stadium’s turf for ‘Fans on the Field’.
The fixture is part of Souths’ Junior Appreciation Round and will kick-off at the family-friendly time of 3pm.
There’ll be a “super-charged Kids Zone” at Gate K/J, march-pasts of players from South Sydney’s junior competition, and lucky ‘junior mascots’ who will walk onto Accor Stadium with their heroes.
That Johnston is one of seven local juniors suiting up for Souths on Saturday is a happy coincidence.
Johnston played junior league for La Perouse Panthers, as did another try-scoring wizard, Josh Addo-Carr, and former NSW Origin speedster James Roberts.
Other Souths juniors who’ll run out for the Rabbitohs on Saturday include Cameron Murray (Mascot) and Campbell Graham (Coogee Wombats and Maroubra Lions).
Blake Taafe (La Perouse Panthers) will be the Bunnies’ No.18 while Peter Mamouzelos (Maroubra Lions) and Dean Hawkins (Matraville Tigers) were named on Souths’ extended bench.
Wrecking ball Keaon Kolomatangi (Mascot) is injured.
Along with the juniors, Saturday will be, effectively, ‘AJ Appreciation Day’.
It’s acknowledgement of a man whose numbers are approaching those of the greatest try-scorer ever.
As stats guru and author of the 2022 Official Rugby League Annual, David Middleton, would tell you, North Sydney Bears and Manly Sea Eagles legend Ken Irvine holds the all-time try-scoring record of 212 tries in 236 games at the rate of 0.89 tries per game.
Johnston’s 171 tries in 200 games come at a strike-rate is 0.85 tries per game.
It’s estimated that if he continues at his current rate of try-scoring Johnston could pass Irvine’s record in his 250th NRL game which – touch plenty of wood, all things going well for him – could happen early in 2025.
Johnston’s 30th birthday will be on Anzac Day, April 25, 2025.
Just putting it out there.
Middleton will tell you that Irvine scored four tries in a game … seven times.
Middleton will also tell you that Johnston twice did something Irvine never did – scored five tries in a single game.
Irvine has nine hat-tricks.
Johnston has 10 hat-tricks.
The chances of Johnston adding another one against Wests Tigers on Saturday afternoon should not be discounted. In the corresponding game last year, in Indigenous Round, Johnston scored a hat-trick against the Tigers while also over-taking Merritt’s record for most tries for Souths.
The Rabbitohs have named the same 17 players that belted Melbourne Storm 28-12 in Brisbane, while Wests Tigers welcome back the X-factor from England, John Bateman, into the team that beat St George Illawarra Dragons 18-16.
Match Day schedule:
|12:40||Kick Off: Knock-On Effect NSW Cup, Rabbitohs v Western Suburbs Magpies:|
|15:00||Kick Off: NRL Telstra Premiership, Rabbitohs v Wests Tigers|
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