HIS stunning hat-trick during a first Super League game in 10 months was the talk of the opening weekend – but modest Wakefield Trinity winger Tom Johnstone described it simply as “three walk-ins”.
Anyone who witnessed those feats in the 28-6 win at Hull KR on Friday night will beg to differ.
Johnstone – back in action after a knee reconstruction ruined his 2017 campaign – displayed all the quality finishing skills he has quickly become renowned for during his short career so far.
The first of his treble as Wakefield built up an 18-0 interval lead at Craven Park was an acrobatic effort tight in the corner from Jacob Miller’s flighted pass but that was bettered still with his flying, one-handed third to confirm victory in the 67th minute.
It was a perfect way for the 22-year-old to mark his return after rupturing his anterior cruciate ligament against Catalans Dragons last April.
Most players take weeks, if not months, of first-team action to get back up to full speed after such a damaging injury but Johnstone – powerful with all his carries – looked immediately back into the sort of form that saw him tipped for an England call-up before that setback.
Asked if things could have gone any better, he told The Yorkshire Post: “No, not really.
“It was just good enough to get out on the field with the boys and get the two points. That was the main thing.
“To get over for three tries as well – three walk-ins really from Milky (Miller) who gave me the ball over the top – you can’t get much better than that really.
“(The last one we) practiced it a lot in training and I just kind of jumped and hoped for the best.
“Luckily I didn’t get smashed into touch while I was doing it,” he added.
Johnstone actually almost didn’t get picked for Trinity – and, bizarrely, has an incorrect weather report to thank for his eventual selection.
Head coach Chris Chester had toyed with the idea of naming Mason Caton-Brown, the ex-Salford Red Devils winger who fared well last term during Johnstone’s absence and had impressed in pre-season, too.
After victory at promoted Hull KR, Chester revealed he only made his final decision the day before the game and opted for Johnstone as the forecast said it would rain during the fixture.
It never did but does that mean the exciting wideman is deemed more of a ‘wet weather’ player?
“I think it’s more ... he says … that I’m a little bit better under the high ball,” explained Johnstone.
“I don’t know if that’s it or not or whether I believe it myself or not.
“I don’t really like the wet weather rugby. But I’ll take it.
“He was umming and ahhing all week between us both and it’s been pretty tough.
“Obviously all I want to do is play after I got back from my injury and credit to Mason. He was awesome last year and again in pre-season.
“So I was really happy to get the nod and hopefully I’ve done it justice.”
Wakefield, who host Salford Red Devils on Friday, were ruthless when taking their opportunities to ruin Hull KR’s Super League return.
The left-edge, in particular, was in fine form as they terrorised the hosts.
Johnstone admitted: “There’s class players down there.
“Milky, Matty Ashurst and Bill Tupou all awesome players.
“We’ve had a few seasons now to get gelling and to get back in after a full pre-season, it’s just showing what we can do.
“We slowed the play down to how we wanted it in the first half and played our own game.
“But credit to Hull KR. They came out in the second half really tough and took the game with two hands and started playing the game a lot faster.
“We started feeling the pressure and made a few errors but managed to hang in there and get back in control for the end of it.”