Wakefield winger Tom Johnstone has opened up on his injury troubles and revealed how it not only affected him, but his family and friends as well.
The 24-year-old ruptured the ACL in his left knee during Trinity’s round 6 game with Hull in 2019, less than 12 months after completing his recovery from the same injury in his right knee.
He missed the rest of the Super League season and was also unable to be considered for the Great Britain squad for the Autumn Tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea.
Two career threatening injuries will take their toll on any player, never mind one still in the early stages of his career, but Johnstone says he coped much better this time around.
“You have your down days, just like with everything,” he said. “But I dealt with it better than the first time.
“Being so inexperienced with injuries, I really struggled with the first one. So obviously having been through it before, I learnt from the past and it helped with the mental side of things.
“I opened up a lot more to my family so everyone kind of knew what to expect when I was having my down days. They knew how to deal with it better and so did I.”
Family clearly means a lot to Johnstone and it’s no wonder after how they’ve helped him cope in the past two years.
An injury like his doesn’t just affect him on-field but can create difficulties in his personal life as well.
The most mundane household chores can turn into long winded tasks, while even trips to the shops require more communication than normal.
“I’m eternally grateful, especially to my partner and my mum and dad who, when I couldn’t drive and things like that, have been my taxi and looked after me,” he added. “The first week, my knee was literally as big as my waist. It was huge and I could hardly walk.
“So before work my missus would ask, ‘Are you upstairs or downstairs today?’, and I’d be like, ‘I’m upstairs’. So then she’d come home at lunchtime to check on me and help me downstairs if I was bored.
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“We normally go shopping together and chalk things off but she’s having to go get everything on her own and I’m like, ‘Did you get this, did you get that’.
“My dad was coming around daily to walk my dog. (Teammate) Anthony England too, he came and offered to take my dog out with his.
“So although everyone always asks how I’m coping, sometimes how I’m being and how moody I am affects other people. But no one’s complained, no one’s turned their back and no one’s said anything, so I’m really grateful for that.”
Johnstone’s main goal for 2020 is simple – stay fit and regain form. That doesn’t mean, however, that he won’t have one eye on the 2021 World Cup.
His international record stands at one solitary cap, which he earned against France at the end of the 2018 season, scoring a hat-trick in the process.
What’s telling, however, was his consistent involvement with the England squad throughout his time on the side lines.
In 2019 the winger was named in the Elite Training Squad and attended every England camp and meeting.
That immense show of commitment, as well as members of the England backroom staff going above and beyond their duties, were among the factors that kept Johnstone in a positive mindset.
“They kept me in the squad and in all the meetings throughout last year until they went to do the GB Tour,” he continued. “So I’ve been in and around the culture and stayed close to the lads.
“JP (Jamie Peacock) and Kevin (Sinfield) have helped me out. They’ve given me calls to check up and see if I need anything, things like that.
“Obviously they could have just brought someone else into the squad and let me get on with rehab, but they said they wanted to keep the group together and they’ve done that by letting me be a part of it and allowing me to still know what it’s like being in that environment.
“It’s just given me that little bit more motivation to work back and be fully involved.”