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In a perfect world, retiring Rabbitohs royalty Nathan Merritt would be bowing out of the game with one last flourish in Sunday's Grand Final. 

Ideally with just one more scintillating, match-winning try.

But it's not, and he won't, so teammate Souths halfback Adam Reynolds has vowed to do it for him as a final tribute to the childhood hero he was once too shy to talk to.

Merritt, according to Reynolds, is "Redfern royalty". And with 146 tries, the most ever scored in the red and green, and 218 appearances, second only to skipper John Sutton, you're pushing the proverbial uphill if you argue otherwise.

But just two weeks after breaking Benny Wearing's long standing Rabbitohs all-time try scoring record, the king was dethroned and the No.2 jumper he wore for 11 years handed on to the latest indigenous flyer to set the Burrow alight, 19-year-old sensation Alex Johnston.

With Johnston justifying his rapid ascension into the top flight with a Merritt-esque 20 tries in his first 17 games, the veteran winger won't be setting foot on the ANZ turf when the side he's been a part of through thick and thin attempt to end 43 years of premiership heartache against the Dogs this weekend.

But Reynolds, who has revered the 31-year-old ever since he was one of hundreds of local indigenous kids following him about Redfern like he was a modern-day Pied Piper, insists Merritt will be with the Rabbitohs when they run out come Sunday night.  

"I looked up to Nathan Merritt, he was my hero as a kid, so yeah I'd love to win it for him," Reynolds tells

"He's still very much a part of this. He's Redfern royalty. Everyone here loves him and the community is behind him. 

"He might not be running out there, but he's with us all the way. He's still a big part of our squad, and it'd mean that much to get the win for him."

Reynolds and Merritt go a hell of a ways back. Even if the diminutive half was too star-struck during his teens to utter a word in the presence of his childhood idol, or pester him for the game of backyard footy he so craved against the local legend.

"My old man knew Nathan's parents, and growing up around here we knew each other from the area," Reynolds says.

"I got to spend a bit of time with Nathan whenever dad brought him over. As a kid it was massive to have my hero coming around, sitting in the living room. I was speechless whenever he was around.

"I was too nervous to get a game out of him, I would've loved to, but I never did. He would've had the chip and chase out and would've schooled me, made me look like a goose.

"To grow up idolising a bloke, and then to first be put into a squad with him was a really proud moment for me. I still idealise him and look up to him."

Reynolds might never have got his game of one-on-one against Merritt, but this weekend does bring another of those childhood dreams into reality. 

As a kid who used to sneak under the fence at Redfern Oval to watch the Rabbitohs' first-grade training sessions, there were only two colours Reynolds could ever end up wearing. 

"The family's entrenched in red and green," Reynolds says.

"There's no way I was ever going to be anything but a Souths fan growing up a few hundred metres from the oval.

"You always want to play for Souths no matter what, even in the toughest times you still want to pull on the jumper you've loved your whole life." 

Now that he'll do so in the club's first grand final appearance since 1971, Reynolds is primed for biggest night of his career thus far.

"It's a boyhood dream come true," he says.

"As a kid you dream of playing first grade and I've achieved that goal and it's something that I treasure dearly. 

"Now to make a grand final it's something that I treasure too... To be a part of it all means so much to me and my family.

"But in saying that there's still a job to do here. We've come this far, and we won't be satisfied with just making it. Now it's time for an even bigger effort on Sunday."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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