By MATT LOGUE, The Daily Telegraph
SOUTH Sydney flyer Alex Johnston has put his hand up to play for Papua New Guinea at this year’s Rugby League World Cup to honour his grandmother.
Johnston’s grandmother Mary is of Torres Strait Islander and Papua New Guinean decent.
She moved to Australia from PNG at a young age and resides near Johnston in the southern Sydney suburb of Kingsgrove.
The Rabbitohs back is close to his grandmother, he has revealed he will play for PNG at the World Cup this October and November if they contact him.
Johnston’s first preference is to represent Australia and add to his maiden appearance in 2015, but he hasn’t ruled out donning the Kumuls jumper.
“If they came knocking, I’d probably play for them,” Johnston told The Daily Telegraph.
“Obviously I’d love to play for Australia. That’s the goal and that is what I’m aiming for, but if the Aussie thing doesn’t happen and PNG offer me, I’ll play with them.
“I think it would be something pretty cool that my grandmother can come to and be a part of.
“She came over to Australia when she was young and she didn’t really speak much English. I’d love to represent her.”
Johnston had the opportunity to play in front of his relatives from PNG when South Sydney played against North Queensland in Cairns in round 19.
“I always enjoy playing in front of those people,”: he said.
“As my parents always tell me, there are a lot of kids from PNG and the Torres Strait Islands that look up to me.
“It was the closest game for them to come and watch, so it was pretty cool.”
Souths may be struggling this season, but Johnston has enjoyed a successful year personally.
He is currently the NRL’s co-leading tryscorer with 17 alongside Melbourne’s Fijian flyer Suliasi Vunivalu.
Johnston is humbled to be alongside Vunivalu, but says he’d swap his personal record for a finals berth.
It’s not to say the Souths back wouldn’t love to emulate one of his childhood idols in Nathan Merritt by taking home the leading try scorer honours.
Merritt was the top try scorer in 2006 with 22 when the Rabbitohs finished last with three wins.
“I remember watching Nathan and he just kept scoring tries,” Johnston said.
“Growing up I was probably in year 6 at that stage, so if I can achieve that like he did, it would be pretty special.”