- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
South Sydney coach Jason Demetriou has "no doubt" Rabbitohs winger Alex Johnston will break Ken Irvine's once-untouchable NRL try-scoring record held for almost 50 years.
Johnston's 157 career four-pointers have hoisted the 27-year-old into outright 11th spot in the try-scoring stakes, more than 20 four-pointers ahead of any other active player.
The prolific finisher is only eight tries behind fifth-placed Andrew Ettingshausen and, if he scores a hat-trick against Cronulla on Saturday, Johnston will move into outright eighth spot.
A gap opens up higher on the rankings, with Irvine's record of 212 tries well ahead of Billy Slater (190) and Steve Menzies (180) in second and third.
But Johnston has scored over 20 tries in each of his past three seasons and will break Irvine's record if he keeps scoring at that rate for the remainder of his Souths contract, which expires at the end of 2025.
"There's no reason why he won't play beyond that, either," Demetriou said.
"I'm pretty confident he'll get there."
Demetriou said Johnston's influence on the Rabbitohs' playing group stretched beyond his ability to find the try-line.
Injuries have brought inexperienced players such as Isaiah Tass, Jed Cartwright and Richard Kennar into the outside backs at South Sydney this season, and Demetriou said Johnston had taken on a mentoring role.
"He's starting to have bit more of a voice in the team," he said.
"He's an experienced player now out on the edge and that experience is vital to some of our young outside backs that are coming through."
Away from football, Johnston is also working on other projects.
"He's writing a book," Demetriou said.
"It's a footy book for kids, believe it or not. He's looking to launch that in the near future. It's good for him to have interests outside of footy and it's good for the younger players to see that as well."
Much has been made of how five-eighth Cody Walker has benefited from Latrell Mitchell's return from injury but Johnston is capitalising on the fullback's fitness as well.
Johnston has crossed for seven tries in the three games he has played since Mitchell returned to the side.
Demetriou said Johnston was enjoying having another playmaker to feed him the footy on the left edge.
"He's got different ballplayers to play off," he said.
"Cody and Latrell are slightly different but he still manages to be in the right place at the right time."
"That's probably AJ's biggest strength. His football awareness is as good as anyone I've seen."
LEADING NRL TRY-SCORERS:-
Ken Irvine - 212
Billy Slater - 190
Steve Menzies - 180
Brett Morris - 176
Andrew Ettingshausen - 165
Terry Lamb - 164
Brett Stewart - 163
Matt Sing - 159
Hazem El Masri - 159
Josh Morris - 158
Alex Johnston - 157