FLYING WINGER Tom Johnstone has three reasons to impress for Wakefield Trinity at home to Wigan Warriors tonight.
Johnstone has been in and out of Trinity’s team in recent weeks, but scored a spectacular try after being recalled for the 19-6 win at Widnes Vikings 13 days ago. His aim now is to secure a regular place, help Wakefield climb the table and earn selection for England’s mid-season Test against New Zealand in Denver later this month.
“We’ve got two class wingers I play alongside in Mason [Caton-Brown] and Bish [Ben Jones-Bishop] and you have got to play well to stay in the team, because if you don’t, you won’t be in the 17,” Johnstone pointed out.
A former Super League young player of the year, Johnstone is back to full fitness after suffering an anterior cruciate ligament injury last season and admitted it is tough being one of the players left out.
“It has been really frustrating for me personally,” he conceded. “I want to put things right that went wrong last year, with the injury, but I think I am starting to get a grip of things now.”
Though a member of England’s elite performance squad, Johnstone has yet to hear if he will be playing at Mile High Stadium on Saturday, June 23.
“I’ve got to try and get some good performances in, to try and get selected for that,” he added. “Hopefully I can string some performances together and get on the plane because it will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an amazing experience.”
A strong effort tonight would help – and more importantly boost Trinity’s chances of climbing above Leeds Rhinos into sixth place in the table.
Trinity had no game last weekend, when Wigan lost to Warrington Wolves in a Ladbrokes Challenge Cup quarter-final and Johnstone said: “We’ve come off a good win at Widnes and it was pretty tough watching teams play in the next round of the Cup. We were disappointed not to be involved in that, but we’re feeling refreshed and ready to go.
“We need a win to put us in the top-six and then we can push on up the table and put the bad run we had behind us.”
Trinity have won two of their last three league games, following a run of only one victory in eight.
“We went through a bit of a rough patch, but a lot of teams do,” said Johnstone.
“Wigan seem to be going through it now. After a couple of weeks training together we’re refreshed and we’ve recharged our batteries and we are good to go. Hopefully we can pick up some wins along the way.”
Victory tonight would lift Trinity above Rhinos, who play Huddersfield Giants tomorrow, but they would still be two wins behind the top-four.
“Never say never,” Johnstone said of Wakefield’s hopes of climbing into the play-offs places. “We’ve made it a bit hard for ourselves.
“The first thing is to get into the top-six and if we do that and we play like we should be able to play, the next aim is the top-four.”
Matty Ashurst is set to return for Wakefield tonight after missing the Widnes game due to injury. Danny Kirmond and Caton-Brown are also in contention, but Chris Annakin is unavailable due to his brother’s wedding.
Wigan have suspended Joel Tomkins after a video emerged of him allegedly abusing bar staff on a night out. Ryan Sutton (knee) also drops out from the team beaten by Warrington.
Dan Sarginson is available after a hamstring problem, Gabe Hamlin is recalled and Romain Navarrete and Josh Woods are also vying for a call into the 17.
Wakefield Trinity: from Arona, Ashurst, Batchelor, Caton-Brown, England, Fifita, Hampshire, Hirst, Horo, Johnstone, Jones-Bishop. Jowitt, Kirmond, Lyne, Miller, Pauli, Randell, Tupou, Wood.
Wigan Warriors: from Bateman, Clubb, Davies, Escare, Farrell, Flower, Gildart, Hamlin, Isa, Leuluai, Marshall, Navarette, O’Loughlin, Powell, Sarginson, Tautai, S Tomkins, Williams, Woods.
Referee: James Child (Dewsbury).
Kick-off: Tonight, 7.45pm.