Johnston breaks Souths' try-scoring record

Scott BaileyAAP
Alex Johnston has rewritten South Sydney's record books in their 44-18 NRL win over Wests Tigers.
Camera IconAlex Johnston has rewritten South Sydney's record books in their 44-18 NRL win over Wests Tigers. Credit: AAP

Alex Johnston has dedicated his South Sydney try-scoring record to the fans who helped keep him at the famous NRL club.

Johnston bagged a hat-trick in Saturday night's historic 44-18 win over Wests Tigers, as Souths came from 12-0 down, overcoming a half-time deficit for the first time this season.

The result ensured the Rabbitohs would enter the State of Origin period in the top eight, while also piling further pressure on Wests Tigers and coach Michael Maguire.

Cameron Murray also got through the win unscathed on return from a shoulder injury and he will be named in Brad Fittler's NSW team on Sunday.

But the man of Indigenous round will forever be the man with Torres Strait Island heritage, as Johnston surpassed former teammate Nathan Merritt's record of 146 tries.

"I'm still pinching myself," Johnston said almost an hour after fulltime.

"I don't want to play in any other colours. To score 147 in the red and green. I am just speechless at the moment.

"What a night to do it, I don't think I will take this Indigenous jersey off for a week."

It was also not lost on Johnston that he could well have been squeezed out of Redfern two years ago, if not for a petition calling for Rabbitohs management to change their tune and re-sign him.

"I was almost not here. There was a petition going around and a lot of fans signed," Johnston said.

"I'd like to think the top dogs saw it and thought we need to keep this guy.

"I think I have plenty more tries to go, touch wood, to pay (the fans) back."

Aged just 27 and with years still ahead of him, there is every chance Johnston could one day surpass Ken Irvine's all-time league record of 212 career tries.

But Johnston urged the media on Saturday night not to put the mock on him, happy to settle for being the leading try-scorer at the league's oldest club for now.

Entering the night equal-second alongside Benny Wearing, Johnston got his first when Cody Walker and Campbell Graham combined to put him into space.

He drew level with Merritt when Souths sent the ball left in the 48th minute, after Jaxson Paulo had performed a crucial one-on-one strip on Brent Naden.

And when Graham offloaded for Johnston to score his 147th, the Rabbitohs erupted.

"I knew straight away, and Campbell knew too," Johnston said.

"He started shouting 'history, history, the record'."

Graham's performance was also timely, in a last-minute pitch for the Blues' vacant centre jersey with Latrell Mitchell and Tom Trbojevic both injured.

Walker claimed two tries before Paulo put the icing on the cake with an 82-metre intercept effort in the dying minutes.

Maguire and the Tigers are left with just three wins from their opening 12 games.

Maguire's men looked good for the opening half before the 32-point collapse, but the match swung when Souths were not called back after Taane Milne knocked on with the Tigers on the attack in the 44th minute.

From that point the Tigers barely put themselves in good ball position again, their defence surrendered meekly and season spiralled further into a point of disrepair.

"They're massive moments. They change the momentum," Maguire said.

"You have to be able to handle those."

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