Alex Johnston ruled out with hip flexor injury, Richie Kennar called in

South Sydney have been dealt a huge blow on the eve of the preliminary final against Penrith, with star striker Alex Johnston injured.

Johnston, the leading try-scorer in the competition this year, has not recovered from a hip flexor injury sustained in the semi-final win over Cronulla.

His place is taken by Richie Kennar, who has only played one game this season.

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“[Johnston] was never really a chance to play, but we gave him every chance. If we get the job done, he’ll be back next week,” said coach Jason Demetriou.

“We can’t afford to have a winger come off the field. We made the right decision. I’m sure he’s devastated, but he puts the team first and we move on.”

Kennar´╗┐’s only game of 2022 came back in July when he scored a hat-trick against Newcastle in Round 17.

The 27-year-old has made 32 appearances for three clubs since making his debut in 2015, and has also played for Melbourne and Brisbane.

“I’m really happy for Richie to have a chance. I think the game will suit him, it will be physical and physicality is not AJ’s strength. There is a bit of a win,” said Demetriou.

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“He’s been around the traps so he won’t be caught off guard by the opportunity. He’s really good on the air, which is very important, dealing with Nathan [Cleary’s] kicking game, so that’s a plus for us. When he comes out of the back of the field, he’s as strong at carrying distance as anyone.”

Demetriou confirmed that Jai Arrow, who was hesitant with a hip injury, will play

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