IT has been almost a decade since Wakefield Trinity last had a player represent England so to see not one but two of their players named in Wayne Bennett’s squad for this autumn’s internationals is certainly encouraging.
Although prolific winger Tom Johnstone was expected to be included, the naming of centre Reece Lyne was more of a surprise, even for the player himself.
Lyne, the strapping three-quarter who has advanced markedly since first arriving at Wakefield from Hull FC when just 19, conceded he was only ‘hoping’ to get a call for the England Knights’ tour of Papua New Guinea.
To be told, then, by England football manager Jamie Peacock that he was in the 24-man senior squad to take on France in a fortnight’s time before a three Test home series against New Zealand, was quite a shock.
Lyne, 25, said: “It was overwhelming really; I am still pinching myself now really.
“There’s a lot of good English centres in the game and the squad. To get the recognition and be involved is amazing.”
Coincidentally, that last Wakefield player to represent England was also a centre.
Ryan Atkins featured in 2009 but was sold by Trinity to Warrington Wolves for the following season where – nearly 300 games later – he still resides even if his last England involvement was 2012. Back then, Wakefield were seen as a ‘selling’ club but that is no longer the case.
Indeed, there is no reason why Lyne and the 23-year-old Johnstone cannot continue their international development as Trinity players.
Two successive fifth-place finishes shows they are on the up and, as Johnstone suggested, working towards “something special” as does three players being named in the Super League Dream Team on Monday, their best representation yet.
Johnstone has certainly worked hard to gain his spot after recovering from a knee reconstruction that ruined his previous campaign.
He has scored 24 tries but revealed he thought he had torn the same ACL in last month’s loss against Catalans Dragons, jeopardising any hopes of an England debut this autumn.
“There was a loose ball and I went to pick it up, someone dived on it and my foot got caught and I managed to hyper-extend my knee,” explained Johnstone.
“That’s what I did last time and I thought I had done my cruciate again.
“The pain was just as bad as it was before. It was the exact same team, same movement, same player.
“I just thought ‘oh my God’. It was full panic stations. I spent the following morning sat around (waiting for scan results). It was horrible to be in the house.
“The missus was all over the place, I was all over the place, just thinking ‘what if?’
“But I don’t think I’ve ever been as happy as when I got the call to say it was just a tweak.
“Now I’m ready to go and over the moon to be in this England squad.”
England are missing Leeds Rhinos centre Kallum Watkins and winger Ryan Hall after they did both suffer season-ending ACL injuries, opening up these opportunities for Lyne and Johnstone.
But they are just two of five uncapped players named by Bennett.
There is also a deserved call-up for Castleford Tigers loose forward Adam Milner, 26, while St Helens prop Luke Thompson and Wigan Warriors second-row Joe Greenwood also get the nod.
Castleford scrum-half Luke Gale is back after missing June’s win over New Zealand in Denver to a knee injury.
Hull’s Jake Connor and Huddersfield Giants’ Jermaine McGillvary retain their places while there is a recall for Wigan Warriors’ No1 Sam Tomkins after an international absence of four years.
Ex-Hull KR hooker Josh Hodgson also returns after he missed last December’s World Cup final and win in America due to his own knee reconstruction.
St Helens hooker James Roby is out after it was decided he would have surgery at the end of the season so Castleford-born Daryl Clark, the Warrington No9, gets a chance.
Bennett said: “It’s important that we build on the positive work of the last couple of years, including last year’s World Cup and the Denver Test, against what we’d expect to be the usual stern challenge from the Kiwis.”
Six members of the World Cup final team were ruled out by injury – Gareth Widdop, Watkins, Hall, Ben Currie, Alex Walmsley and Roby - while The Yorkshire Post understands no players featuring in the Grand Final on October 13 will face France at Leigh the following Wednesday.