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It's hard to imagine Alex Johnston, the proud La Perouse junior from South Sydney heartland, wearing any football colours except the famous cardinal and myrtle.

But rewind to midway through last season and Johnston had all but accepted that he'd have to reluctantly leave his beloved Rabbitohs.

If not for some eventual salary cap manoeuvring, the 26-year-old wouldn't have topped the try-scoring list for a second straight season in 2021. Nor would he be vying for a second premiership on Sunday.

It might be overshadowed by potential fairytale departures for Wayne Bennett, Adam Reynolds and Benji Marshall, but Johnston will have his own feel-good story if South Sydney trump Penrith.

"It's hard to put into words because I love the club; I feel very lucky that I got the situation where I could stay eventually," Johnston said

"Signing with Souths the last couple of years has been one of the best decisions for myself personally and for my family to stay in Sydney."

Panthers v Rabbitohs - Grand final

Along with Reynolds and Tom Burgess, Johnston is one of the three remaining pieces from the 2014 triumph. A high-flying rookie at the time, he scored the first try in the grand final against the Bulldogs.

"Back then, I was just in awe still of playing first grade, just going out there and playing footy and loving every minute of it," he said.

"After having six years after that of not making the GF, I've really understood the grind and how hard it is to actually make the GF."

The effect of Reynolds' groin issue come grand final day

Many things have changed since South Sydney were last premiers, but Johnston noted some similarities between the eras.

He bagged 21 tries in 18 games in his debut season and has chalked up 29 tries in 21 matches so far this campaign. The Endeavour Sports High School product credits slick service for both hauls.

"I find myself very lucky that I reap all the rewards and benefits of putting the ball over the line," Johnston said after lauding Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell and Dane Gagai for their assist work.

"But compared to [2014], with guys like GI [Greg Inglis] and that, it's fairly similar, the ball I'm getting. I'm just getting it a bit more regularly, I think. We like attacking our left edge.

"It's the same sort of feel about it."

As one of the few Rabbitohs with grand final experience, Johnston kept a lid on the hype following last week's win over the Sea Eagles.

"After we won the prelim, the boys were all cheering for that long and I was like, 'What's going on? We've got one more game'," he said.

"I tried to settle them down then. Since then, I think they've all realised the big dance is this week and we've got to go and do a job."

And knowing how close he came to having to leave South Sydney, Johnston will soak up every moment of the decider.

"I'm not going to take it for granted," he said.

The NRL Telstra Premiership grand final is here!