Alex Johnston in his profile on the South Sydney Rabbitohs website described his greatest moment in rugby league as playing for the Australian Schoolboys and defeating the Poms.
Come Sunday, it could be replaced with a Premiership winning player for the great South Sydney club in breaking a forty-three year drought.
It’s a remarkable rise for Johnston who represents the new breed of rugby league speedsters. His first run on appearance was on ANZAC Day at Suncorp Stadium in front a crowd over forty-thousand. Thrown into the squad at the expense of Nathan Merritt, a legend of the club. Within the ten minutes of the kick-off he made his mark in scoring the first of twenty tries in just seventeen appearances in the top grade to date.
There will be the comparisons between the nineteen year old flyer and the retiring thirty-one year old Merritt. Statistically after seventeen matches Merritt only crossed eight times. Remembering that Merritt was part of a South Sydney side who ran second last in 2002 and a long distant last in 2003 before he linked up with Cronulla for two unsuccessful years at the shire club. Without his contribution of 218 games for the club in scoring 146 times, the South Sydney franchise may not have been in the position they are today.
Johnson has pure speed and has been able to draw off the experience of idol Greg Inglis and thirty-five year old Lote Tiquiri as he develops into a rugby league star. If he continues at the same strike rate, he is well on his way to scoring over two-hundred tries in his career and being up there with the great Ken Irvine as one of the highest try scorers in the game.
With the intentions of Tim Sheens to look towards the future in national selection, the name Johnson might be called out early next week to make his representative debut in the Four Nations tournament. A big step up from playing for Australian Schoolboys. It would cap off a dream season for a rookie with under six months of regular National Rugby League experience under his belt.
Johnston in the lead-up to the match summed up what any teenager in his position would be thinking going into the biggest game of their lives.
“It can’t get much better than this. I’m only in my first year and into a grand final. I’m speechless really”