HAT-TRICK hero Tom Johnstone has a dodgy weather forecast to thank for his opening night exploits in Wakefield Trinity’s 28-6 win at Hull KR.
Back in action after a knee reconstruction ruined his 2017 campaign, the powerful winger displayed all his quality finishing prowess as his stunning treble ruined promoted Rovers’ big night.
But, it emerged, he actually almost didn’t even get picked for Trinity.
Head coach Chris Chester had toyed with the idea of naming Mason Caton-Brown, the ex-Salford Red Devils winger who fared well last term during Johnstone’s absence and had impressed in pre-season, too.
Afterwards, Chester revealed he only made his final decision the day before the game and opted for Johnstone as the forecast said it would rain during the fixture.
It never did but does that mean the exciting wideman is deemed more of a ‘wet weather’ player?
“I think it’s more...he says… that I’m a little bit better under the high ball,” explained Johnstone.
“I don’t know if that’s it or not or whether I believe it myself or not.
“I don’t really like the wet weather rugby. But I’ll take it.
“He was umming and ahhing all week between us both and it’s been pretty tough.
“Obviously all I want to do is play after I got back from my injury and credit to Mason. He was awesome last year and again in pre-season.
“So I was really happy to get the nod and hopefully I’ve done it justice.”
He certainly did. The glorious hat-trick has been the talk of the opening weekend of Super League action – even if he modestly described them just as “three walk-ins.”
The first of his treble as Wakefield built up an 18-0 interval lead was an acrobatic effort tight in the corner from Jacob Miller’s flighted pass but that was bettered still with his flying, one-handed third to confirm victory in the 67th minute.
It was a perfect way for the 22-year-old to mark his first Super League match since rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Catalans Dragons last April.
Most players take weeks, if not months, of first-team action to get back up to full speed after such a damaging injury but Johnstone – powerful with all his carries – looked immediately back into the sort of form that saw him tipped for an England call-up before that setback.
Asked if things could have gone any better, he said: “No, not really.
“It was just good enough to get out on the field with the boys and get the two points. That was the main thing.
“To get over for three tries as well – three walk-ins really from Milky (Miller) who gave me the ball over the top – you can’t get much better than that really.
“(The last one we) practiced it a lot in training and I just kind of jumped and hoped for the best.
“Luckily I didn’t get smashed into touch while I was doing it.
“Our left-edge – Milky, Matty Ashurst, Bill Tupou are all awesome players and we’ve had a few seasons now to get gelling.
“After a full pre-season it’s showing what we can do.”