South Sydney record holder Alex Johnston has downplayed the prospect of surpassing Ken Irvine as the greatest tryscorer in premiership history, but he promised Rabbitohs fans who helped save his career at the club that there would be many more tries to come. follow.
Johnston improved Nathan Merritt’s Rabbitohs record of 146 tries with a hat-trick in Saturday night’s 44-18 defeat to the Wests Tigers to become the leading tryscorer for the NRL’s oldest and most successful club.
Fittingly, the star winger, who is proud of his Saibai Island heritage, took the feat in the Indigenous Round and later joked that he wouldn’t take his jersey off for a week, but at just 27 years old, Johnston has more records within reach .
With 147 tries in 178 games for Souths, Johnston has the best batting percentage of any player since former Dragons winger Nathan Blacklock, who scored 121 tries in 142 games between 1995 and 2004.
Hear from Alex Johnston after his record breaking night
Compared to Blacklock, who averaged 1.17 tries, Johnston scores every 1.21 games and would need 78 more games to reach Irvine’s record of 212 tries if he continued at the same pace.
Irvine, who played 236 games for North Sydney and Manly, averaged a try every 1.11 games — a strike rate surpassed only by Harold Horder, who scored 152 tries in 139 games for the Rabbitohs and Bears between 1912 and 1924 .
The players between Johnston and Irvine’s record are:
- Billy Slater 190 (1.67 games per attempt)
- Steve Menzies 180 (1.93)
- Brett Morris 176 (1.56)
- Andrew Ettingshausen 165 (1.97)
- Terry Lamb 164 (2.13)
- Brett Stewart 163 (1.42)
- Matt Zing 159 (1.72)
- Hazem El Masri 159 (1.89)
- Josh Morris 158 (2.05)
- Michael Jennings 154 (1.93)
- Harold Horder 152 (0.91)
- Manu Vatuvei 152 (1.48)
- Greg Inglis 149 (1.76)
Steve Renouf scored 142 tries in 183 games for the Broncos at an average of one try per 1.28 games.
Asked about the prospect of overtaking Irvine, Johnston said: “Let’s not make fun of it. One game at a time, just let them go on and whatever happens, happens.”
Johnston is on track to surpass Irvine’s number before his current contract expires at the end of the 2025 season, if the Rabbitohs play regular finals football or early 2026.
After being handed the match ball on Saturday night, Johnston thanked Rabbitohs fans for their role in organizing a petition to convince the club to re-sign him in 2020.
Hat-trick hero Johnston becomes Rabbitoh’s best try-scorer of all time
“It means a lot to me. There is no club I would rather play for,” said Johnston. “I love this club and breaking this record is something I could never have dreamed of.
“Of course we all know what happened a few years ago. I was almost not there. There was a petition that was signed by many fans.
“I like to think the top dogs looked at that and said, ‘Maybe we should keep this guy’. I’m very grateful to the fans for doing that. It all worked out. I’m just so happy.”
When asked if he had repaid the fans by becoming the club’s top tryscorer, Johnston said: “I think I have a lot more tries to hopefully pay them back”.
Johnston said teammates knew he was approaching Merritt’s record.
“Campbell Graham in me knew it too. When he passed me the ball for the last try, he just started yelling ‘History, history’ and ‘record’. I think he was more pumped than me.
“It just shows what kind of club and team-mates we have, we all care and love each other. I’m just grateful to be a part of it.”