Rabbitohs duo years in the making
Since the moment he scored a debut try against the Broncos on Anzac Day, Rabbitohs wing sensation Alex Johnston has been leaving plenty of NRL speedsters deader than disco.
But teammate Dylan Walker may well have been the first.
Just four months separates the Bunnies' latest additions to a red and green backline with more raw potential than any other in the NRL.
And after a three-try blitz from the duo that had the Raiders’ left-edge defence looking for a hole to hide in on Monday night, Walker revealed he's had his eye on the La Perouse Panthers junior for "a good seven to eight years," with their combination being honed and polished over years together in the Souths juniors system.
But there's one game that sticks in Walker's memory, when he stood in the same concrete shoes that Jarrod Croker, Vai Toutai and Blake Austin have all occupied at points this year as the former Australian schoolboy burned right on by.
As a young reporter for NSWRL I stood on the sidelines of a 2012 GIO Schoolboy Cup semi-final, when a then 17-year-old Johnston led Endeavour to a 24-12 upset of heavyweights Matraville, who had previously played in four of the competition's past five deciders.
The way Walker speaks of that game two years on, he may as well have been standing beside me.
Instead, as skipper and five-eighth of Matraville, he was left with windburn as Johnston breezed past his future teammate more times than either of us care to remember, producing an outlandish match winner – where he lobbed an errant ball with a deft half-volley over the defence before regathering on the fly – in the process.
"I came up against him and he showed me up a couple of times when I played against him in 2012, he probably single-handedly won them that game," Walker recalls.
"He did some freakish things in that game.
"AJ's got me (for speed), definitely. I'm only quick over 40, but he's a fast boy AJ. I think he'd be one of the fastest at the club."
Having been beaten, Walker (nine tries in 15 games) is now joined by Johnston (a phenomenal 11 in nine outings) on a Rabbitohs right-side that is fast becoming the most dangerous in the competition.
Thick as thieves on the pitch, the City Origin star gave his mate a few simple words of advice off it earlier in the year as Johnston followed him down the same path to first grade he had trodden just 12 months previous.
"He had nerves through pre-season because obviously ‘Madge’ was keeping a good close eye on him, and I just said to him 'look, just play your natural game and your shot will come,'" Walker says.
"When he got his shot I thought he took it with both hands and ever since then he's progressing, getting better and better each week, and that's him just working hard in the pre-season and training.
"Obviously the old boys like Sammy (Burgess) and Greggy's (Inglis) a big influence on myself and him as well, so we're thankful to the senior players for helping us younger blokes out."
For Walker, his partnership with the kid he's known since he was 12, predictions of a sky blue jumper in the near future and those much publicised coffee dates with living legend Inglis are all just part and parcel of his second year in the top flight.
The only thing that's not is the dreaded syndrome that for whatever reason often accompanies the 12 months following a breakthrough rookie year.
"[Second year syndrome] never really got tossed up around me and my head," says Walker, who has averaged an astounding 170 metres and 8 tackle breaks in his three starts since returning from a broken thumb suffered in Round 13.
"I don't like to put negative stuff in my head. I just like to be positive and obviously there's things that you work on and things that you want to build on.
"[Coming into 2014] I just thought I want to do my best for the team.
"The injury was a setback. Obviously coming back you always find it hard to try and get back into the rhythm of things and try and getting your preparation right.
"But just sticking to my process and training, that was a big one for me.
"Just trying to keep my fitness up and I did a lot of speed work and did everything I possibly could to come back and be 100% fit."