AFTER six frustrating months on the sidelines Tom Johnstone is back in full training with Wakefield Trinity and dreaming of an England call-up.
Johnstone – 2016’s Super League’s young player of the year – has been out of action since tearing an an anterior cruciate knee ligament in a game against Catalans Dragons on April 30.
The injury was a huge blow to the pacy winger who had scored seven tries in 12 appearances and was being tipped for a place in England’s World Cup squad.
Following successful surgery Johnstone was one of the first Wakefield players back into pre-season training earlier this month and is confident of being available for Trinity’s Betfred Super League opener at promoted Hull KR on Friday, February 2.
Further down the line, the 22-year-old is eyeing an England call up for next autumn’s Test series against New Zealand and revealed it was that prospect which helped him through some dark days.
“I was getting talked about [before the injury] and for everything to suddenly disappear was quite a shock,” he recalled.
“It’s the worst injury I’ve had, by far. After the game we didn’t think it was that bad, so when the scan result came back it was a shock.
“I broke my leg last year and that was nine weeks – this has been 36 so far and I am still not where I want to be.
“The first thing I want to do when I get back is get over the first few games’ jitters and get back into playing regular rugby how I was doing and kick on from there.
“I want to put my name into contention; what I really want to do in the next couple of years is get an England call-up.
“That’s what got me through the re-hab, thinking about how hard I have to work to get to where I want to be. I have been day dreaming about that.”
It is very early days in pre-season, but Johnstone said he is playing a full part, though he is still in some discomfort.
“I am pretty much doing everything,” he confirmed. “I have done my first bit of full contact in the last few weeks.
“It gets a bit sore now and then so we are just monitoring it and getting a bit more re-hab into it.”
Johnstone – a product of the Stanningley community club in Leeds – described his long layoff as “very, very frustrating”.
He added: “Having to sit on the sideline and watch and see the boys on the field going so well when I could not take part, it was pretty tough.
“All I could do was go into the gym and do re-hab and get on with it. I am glad to be at the end of it now.”
Trinity’s pre-season fixtures begin at home to Leeds Rhinos on Boxing Day, but that may come too early for Johnstone.
He said: “I probably could play in that, but I don’t think it’s a good idea.
“It will only be seven months then and we want to give it the full amount of recovery, which is six to nine months.
“I am definitely hoping to be ready for the start of the season and maybe to get one or two pre-season games in.”