The rugby league club with the longest and proudest Indigenous history kick-started the NRL’s special weekend in style, sensationally scoring all of their 32 points via their star Aboriginal trio.
Alex Johnston bagged a hat-trick, including two long-range intercept tries, Latrell Mitchell scored a try and booted four goals and Cody Walker was particularly brilliant when forced to call the shots for most of the game without his trusty off-sider Adam Reynolds.
Rabbitohs skipper Reynolds was crunched in a tackle by Tariq Sims in the seventh minute and failed to return.
Souths coach Wayne Bennett said his little No. 7 picked up a ”burner” in the shoulder and was never returning in the second half.
Bennett will be hoping Reynolds is back on deck for next Friday’s clash against the Broncos.
“For 60 minutes tonight we absolutely nailed it and all the Indigenous boys scored all the points,” Bennett said.
“They reckon it’s best if you back a horse with self interest. There was self interest out there tonight, they scored all our points, which is rare and unique in the game. They were outstanding each one of them.
“I thought Latrell was good for us. I didn’t want to put him to five-eighth when we lost Adam because I know what he can do for us at the back and I needed him to bring that, not bring him up in the line where they can pick him off easier.
As for handing Johnston a new deal beyond this season, Bennett said: “It’s a work in progress. None of us want him to leave the club. [But] like everyone in the game we have a cap and we’re trying to fit everyone in.”
Souths were desperate for something to spark their season and a loss to St George Illawarra could have had them four points adrift of the eight by the end of the weekend.
Not only did they roar back to life with the 32-24 victory over the Dragons, it was the perfect confidence boost for their main attacking weapons.
The Rabbits have now won 10 of their 12 Indigenous Round games. The record is remarkable. So too is the club’s following amongst Indigenous fans up and down the east coast.
Dufty popped up in support of Corey Norman who pounced on the loose ball from Reynolds, then turned provider for Euan Aitken.
When Aitken returned the favour for Dufty in the 16th minute, it looked like being a proper Thursday night Kogarah bash-up.
But Walker was able to stroll through some soft defence from Paul Vaughan and Cam McInnes.
Johnston remains one of the best finishers in the game. He was concussed just five days earlier in the nation’s capital but passed all the required protocols.
All this talk about boom 16-year-old Joseph Suaalii, who can play fullback or wing, would not be making Johnston feel any better about his future in the red and green.
“I don’t know how many times in the NRL where it happens the same bloke gets two intercepts and runs the length,” McGregor said.
“We trained all week knowing that guy is going to come out of the line. We deliver him 12 points.
“We get off to good leads, then to concede points in a row … we know what to do, we’re not doing what we know, we’re trying to solve things on our own and that doesn’t work. Tonight was very similar.”
Dufty was good, as were wingers Mikaele Ravalawa and the returning Jordan Pereira plus Euan Aitken. Aitken was a handful on the left edge and would have been relieved Mitchell had resumed life as a fullback and not remained at centre where he dominated him countless times in the position for the Roosters.
Speaking of the Roosters, the Red V will need to aim up next Thursday against the Roosters to be any chance of keeping their season alive.
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South Sydney Rabbitohs, St. George Illawarra Dragons, National Rugby League, Cody Walker, Alex Johnston, Adam Reynolds
World news – AU – Dragons die hard as Souths paint work of Indigenous art