How Tom Johnstone is helping Wakefield Trinity teammate Tinirau Arona through injury rehabilitation
For Tom Johnstone the recovery process for a ruptured ACL is - frustratingly - all to familiar.
The Wakefield Trinity man was ruled out for the season after rupturing ligaments in his knee in March.
It was the second time in less than two years that the talented winger suffered a serious and long-term injury to his knee.
Speaking ahead of Super League's State of Mind round last week, the 23-year-old revealed how he had struggled to come to terms with his injury.
But after talking out his issues, Johnstone was able to focus on his comeback before enjoying a stellar season in 2018.
He finished second in Super League's try-scoring charts, helping Wakefield finish fifth for a second year running, earning himself an England call-up.
And the winger took his chance on the international stage with both hands as he scored a hat-trick in a comfortable victory over France at the Leigh Sports Village.
However, Johnstone's campaign was cut short by another ruptured ligament in 2019 before teammate Tinirau Arona suffered a similar injury just a few weeks later.
But the England international reveals how he is using the experience of his first long-term lay-off to help himself and Arona through their rehab process.
"I have been looking at it really positively," said Johnstone of his recovery time.
"I have got Ti Arona, he has unfortunately suffered the same injury, and we are doing rehab together.
"We are sort of bouncing off each other and it helps as well because I know that I can help him when he is having a bad day.
"I can reach a hand out and tell him how it is going to be, because I have got the experience from it.
"It is a lot better in that aspect. I have looked at it much brighter and I know I can help him and seeing that I have helped him helps me as well."
Last weekend, Super League launched its Wellbeing Round to help tackle the issues surrounding men's mental health.
Johnstone admitted to go through some tough times during his first rehab, as he spent several hours alone in the gym while his teammates were out on the training field.
For the 23-year-old, it took a conversation with Trinity's player welfare manager to set him on the right path.
"I was the only person with a season-long injury at Wakefield," said Johnstone of his first long-term injury in 2017.
"I was in the gym for several hours a day on my own while the rest of the boys were on the field.
"I used rugby as an escapism, because I had some things going on outside of rugby.
"So I really enjoyed getting in and around the lads to try and help with that. And when that was taken away I didn't really know where to turn and what do to.
"I was just looking for other things to try and help with that. It got to the point where I ended up contacting our player welfare manager Stu Dickens.
"He sent me in the right direction of who to speak to because I was a bit lost with it all."
Johnstone has urged others to talk about their issues, saying: "You think you are being a burden on people and you think you are being miserable about things.
"When really, you have got to accept how tough it can be.
"You have this stigma that it shouldn't happen to me, I am too strong for this. It is not going to affect me and I'm going to get through this on my own.
"But it came to the point where I had to admit that I am struggling and I am going to need to get some help."
He added: "If you let people in to help you, it can make a big difference."