Hull FC hooker Jordan Johnstone was one of the four unlucky Hull FC players who were selected in the 21-man squad but then left out of the matchday 17 for Sunday’s Super League opener against Huddersfield Giants for new coach Brett Hodgson’s first game in charge of the Airlie Birds.
It contrasts with the opening game of the 2020 season, when Johnstone made his debut for Hull and started the game in the absence of regular hooker Danny Houghton, helping Hull to a 30-4 victory over Leeds Rhinos at Headingley.
Johnstone, 23, would go on to play 17 games for Hull in 2020, starting twelve times and he admits that his aim is eventually to become Hull’s first-choice hooker.
“Definitely, it’s a long term goal of mine to take over from Danny at some point,” says Johnstone.
“Last year I didn’t expect to start as many as I did. But I had a taste of it, and now I want to put my foot down, play some consistent rugby and make that spot my own.”
But despite wanting one day to take over from Houghton, Johnstone emphasises the respect he has for a player who made his club debut 14 years ago.
“If I ever have any concerns he is the first bloke I go to and I think we are on the same wavelength,” he adds.
“He is really professional, first in last out, always doing the extras, and he is a bloke I look up to. I’m sure he’s got a few years left. He is smashing with everyone, even the young kids, and you have to be impressed by how well he looks after himself.”
Johnstone is a Cumbrian by birth, having signed for Widnes from his home county at the behest of Hodgson, when the current Hull coach was an assistant with the Vikings. And he admits that in his view there is something special about coming from the Rugby League’s northwest frontier.
“All the Kiwis have started calling me Marra. It’s not my first time being away from home, so it’s not a big deal,” he explains.
“But all I wanted to do as a kid was play for Whitehaven. If there was a Cumbrian Super League franchise, of course I would be interested in playing for it.
“After every game you play against another Cumbrian, you have a conversation. Whenever there’s a Cumbrian player in the opposition I always look out for him.”
And, when he eventually does get the chance, Johnstone is looking forward to playing alongside new signing Josh Reynolds.
“He is just such a positive bloke, and I really admire the way he plays the game,” says Johnstone.
“You can see just how competitive he is, even in training. He’s the sort of bloke you enjoy playing alongside. I know well that he’ll have my back.”
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