Latrell Mitchell has paid Alex Johnston the ultimate accolade, declaring his South Sydney teammate the best finisher of all-time with the prolific winger on the greatest try-scoring run in rugby league history.
Johnston has bagged 57 tries since the start of the 2021 NRL season, surpassing the legendary Dave Brown’s previous record haul of 53 from 1935 and 1936.
He is also on track to become first player in the game’s history to score 30 tries in consecutive ARL/NRL seasons, needing three more this campaign to achieve the unprecedented feat.
And at his rate of the past two seasons, Johnston will break Ken Irvine’s once-untouchable record in 2024 – before the age of 30.
“He’s No.1 – the best ever. The best I’ve ever seen,” Mitchell told AAP, without hesitation, when asked where Johnston ranked as a finisher.
“Just for the smarts he has, the intelligence to stay in or pick his time.
“Like, he has one moment here and there but everybody does. But nine times out of 10 he makes the right decision.”
With 163 four-pointers in 187 games for the Rabbitohs, Johnston could well also reach Irvine’s magical 212 tries in less than the Manly and North Sydney great’s 236 matches.
“It’s very surreal to even think about it at the moment. I still feel so young and feel like I just started my career,” Johnston told AAP.
Still only 27, Johnston is equal seventh on the all-time try-scoring list with Brett Stewart, trailing only Terry Lamb (164), Andrew Ettingshausen (165), Brett Morris (176), Steve Menzies (180), Billy Slater (190) and Irvine.
On his current strike rate, Johnston could even pass Lamb and ET in Saturday’s clash with North Queensland, with Irvine’s record looking inevitable unless he suffers a career-ending injury.
“It would be such an honour if it happens one day, touch wood,” Johnston said.
“I don’t know what I’d do. It’s pretty special.”
Incredibly, the closest Johnston has been to a State of Origin call-up came when he was named as NSW’s 18th man in 2015, the same year he played his lone Test for Australia.
Mitchell believes Johnston shouldn’t have to wait until next year’s Origin series to receive another major representative honour.
“I’d put him in the Australian side, to be honest. He deserves it,” Mitchell said.
Johnston’s 2022 World Cup selection chances may well hinge on how Souths end up in the premiership race.
If it doesn’t happen this year, Johnston is likely to get many more opportunities in the future.
In an era of 40 being the new 30 in professional sport, the flyer hopes to play on well beyond when his current contract with the Rabbitohs expires in 2025.
“As long as I’m doing my job and playing good footy and enjoying it, I’ll play as long as I can,” he said.
“As old as I can play. As long as my body is sweet. If I take care of my body, hopefully a lot longer than three years.”