PROLIFIC Tom Johnstone insists he is not worrying about second-season syndrome at Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
The free-scoring winger was one of the finds of last year despite playing for Super League’s bottom club.
He started off on dual-registration at Championship neighbours Featherstone Rovers but was handed his Trinity debut at Wigan in March and ended with nine tries in 13 games.
Still just 20, his raw pace and finishing ability soon picked him out as one of the competition’s most thrilling players.
With the new campaign just a few weeks away – and a new four-year deal signed in December after Wildcats ignored a transfer fee from a leading rival – opponents are sure to have done their homework on Johnstone this time around.
But he told The Yorkshire Post: “I know I have to keep working hard at my game just to get in the Wakefield team.
“Last year was a really good season for me to finally break into the first-team and get a few games. It was a massive surprise; I didn’t expect to play that many games so it was great to do well.
“But I want to get more consistency this time around and a few more games under my belt.
“It was tough last year – some big forwards to go up against – and I’m not sure if it will get tougher again but I’ll just try keep working on all of my game.”
Having such an experienced head coach as Brian Smith, the veteran Australian who has overseen the flourishing careers of countless young players, is sure to help.
Johnstone admitted: “He has given me a load of advice and loads of stuff to kick on with.
“Brian’s always pulling me to one side, giving me one-on-one session to help me out and get me up to pace with some of the other boys like Richard Owen who’ll be back from his injury soon.”
Johnstone, meanwhile, hails from the Stanningley amateur club in Leeds that produced the likes of former Leeds Rhinos and Great Britain captain Jamie Peacock. He also has an unusual background for an RL player.
“I’m from Leeds but was actually born in Germany,” said the youngster, who came through Wildcats’ academy system.
“My dad was in the army and his regiment was based there so we ended up moving across to Germany just before I was born.”
Often, sons follow their fathers into the military but Johnstone had no such desires.
“The army was never for me,” he said. “My brother went to military boarding school but it was never any intention of mine – I just wanted to go to normal school and stay at home!
“It was after I moved over from Germany that a friend at school said try Stanningley and I was there ever since the age of six.
“There’s some legends come from there like Jamie Peacock and Jamie Jones-Buchanan.
“And there’s some young lads like Jordan Lilley, who’s at Leeds now.
“He’s two years younger than me but at one point our teams merged and we did play together. He’s a great talent.”
Johnstone will have competition from Owen – the former Castleford Tigers winger rehabilitating following the second major broken leg of his career – plus Reece Lyne in 2016 while the likes of Ashley Gibson and even Craig Hall also offer Smith options out wide.
Wakefield only confirmed their Super League status with that tense Million Pound Game success against Championship promotion-hopefuls Bradford Bulls in September.
No one wants to go through that ordeal once more and Smith has made a number of significant signings which they hope will ensure they don’t.
Johnstone said: “There is definitely a lot of new players and a lot of skilled people like (former Leeds full-back) Ben Jones-Bishop.
“He has helped me loads over pre-season and is doing lots for the team. We have got some great players on board here.”