Catalans Dragons and England winger Tom Johnstone has detailed that the 2023 season was not only the best year of his career, but also of his life.
The former Wakefield Trinity man has had a torrid time with injuries in recent years, but since moving to the South of France this year he has gone from strength to strength and earned a spot back in the England side.
Speaking exclusively to Serious About Rugby League, Johnstone opened up on his ‘special’ season: “Yeah, it’s been a special one. It’s been the best year of my career, probably my life. I’ve loved every minute of it.”
Johnstone’s form for the Dragons saw him finish as joint top try scorer this season with 27 tries, and he was also nominated for the prestigious Man of Steel award.
Reflecting back on the personal milestones, he said: “My goal was to just play as many games as I could, but I played 33 and to get the accolades alongside it, it’s probably a year I’ll never forget.”
Now his season has come to an end, he told SARL he will take some time to reflect on the stellar year he has had.
“I’m just going to have a month or two, just to reflect on the year, enjoy it and get myself ready for next year and then I’ll think about it then.”
Whilst his club season ended with Old Trafford heartbreak in the Grand Final, Johnstone was part of the England squad that swept Tonga aside this Autumn.
During the series, he carried his club form over into the England shirt and impressed in all three tests. He also grabbed himself two tries.
Looking back on the series as a whole, Johnstone said: “Yeah it feels great. We only wanted 3-0 and that’s been the goal the whole way through.
He also explained it would have been an ‘injustice’ if England hadn’t secured the clean sweep: “I think anything less than that would have been injustice to how good this team is. It feels good, we’ve got the job done, everyone’s happy.”
Shaun Wane’s side secured the series whitewash with a comfortable 24-6 win at AMT Headingley on Saturday, and in the process Wane blended a mixture of youthful enthusiasm with experienced heads.
The likes of Harry Newman and Mikey Lewis were handed their debuts, and Matty Ashton and Man of the Series Harry Smith also impressed.
Reflecting on where this series leaves English Rugby League, Johnstone told SARL that the team are in a transition stage.
“I think it’s a bit of a transition,” he said. “There’s a lot of new faces and things like that. They had a great team last year but didn’t quite get done what they wanted to do.”
He also highlighted that the focus was very much on the future: “We’re trying to build for that World Cup now and we want to keep going from there. We’ve got a few more Test Series coming up over the next few years which we’ll just keep working towards.”