Tommy Makinson is fast establishing a reputation as one of the most exciting players to watch in Super League – but it could have quite easily been all so different.
This year could bring with it untold success for the 26-year-old; and not just at club level. While his St Helens side are the standout team in Super League at present, Makinson could also end the year an England international after his recent call-up to the Elite Performance Squad.
It is recognition many believe he deserves. Makinson is one of the unsung heroes of St Helens’ climb to the top of the table this year – but having earlier spent his formative years battling a number of serious injuries, it is a rise to prominence the winger takes extra pride in.
In 2015, his season was ended prematurely by a serious broken ankle, before the following year, a major knee injury curtailed his campaign once again. And while those issues are now firmly behind him, they remain in the forefront of Makinson’s mind as a reminder as to how far he has come.
“It’s something I really struggled with at first,” he tells TotalRL.
“I started my career with a bang really, but then I got a serious ankle injury and then the knee setback which put me out for a while, and when you’re still a young kid, trying to deal with all that.. that’s really difficult.
“Those early years of your career are about learning the game and enjoying it, but when you’re in rehab all the time and trying to manage your fitness just so you can play.. it’s tough.”
Makinson also shared an emotional insight into how those injuries put a halt on his personal life, as well as his playing career.
“When I’m coming home unhappy because the lads are winning games and enjoying training, and I’m having to spend my whole day on treatment tables and strapped in knee braces, that’s hard to deal with,” he admits.
“My little girl was running round wanting to play with me, and I couldn’t; my partner was wanting to go and do things and I just didn’t really want to. It’s family who get you through the other side of things like that.
“Even when I was injured, I was in a bad place – and sometimes I thought my career was fading – but the staff and my family have got me to where I am now. I feel like I’m in some of the best form of my career, and long may that continue.”
He continued: “Sport is a massive emotional rollercoaster, and right now, a lot of us are riding high – but you never forget the lows. I’m happy; I feel like I’m hitting the prime of my career and I’m feeling fantastic.”