Rookie of the Year relieved to be back on the field

This is an expanded version of an article, originally written by Pete Stephenson, that first appeared in this week’s Rugby League Express

Tom Lineham admits he was terrified when he made his return to Super League action in Perpignan against the Catalan Dragons a week last Saturday, but the winger insists he’s now ready to put his injury nightmares behind him.

Lineham broke his ankle in the final minute of the round four win over Bradford and has faced 12 weeks on the sidelines since. But the 21-year-old came through is first game back unscathed, and played again against Wakefield on Sunday.

He now wants to rekindle his impressive 2013 form, which saw him win the Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year medal.

“I was terrified before the Catalan game,” said Lineham.

“I didn’t find out I was playing until the Thursday, because Callum Lancaster failed a late fitness test.

“The coaching staff had told me that he’d probably be fine to play, so I’d prepared myself to just come in and do some fitness training.

Tom Lineham receives the Rookie award from Barrie McDermott
Tom Lineham receives the Rookie award from Barrie McDermott

“But I got the nod and I had to get into game mode. You always want to play, but when the realisation hit me that I was playing it was a bit scary. Coming back from injury is always tougher mentally more than physically.

“I never usually get nervous before a game. But on this occasion I was terrified. No matter how hard I tried to block it out, the injury was always in the back of my mind.

“I wanted to get a carry early and I got one, which settled me down. By the second half I’d forgotten about it (the injury) and started to enjoy myself, especially with it being a tight game.

“I got tested with a high ball early, and if you catch them you’re on to a winner. I felt a bit rusty with my timing but that’s to be expected. I’m just glad I got through it okay.

“My aim now is to pick up from where I left off last year and revive my partnership with Ben Crooks.”

Lineham, winner of the 2013 Albert Goldthorpe Rookie of the Year, exploded onto the scene last season as part of a lethal right edge partnership for Hull FC alongside Crooks, which earned the duo a place in the ‘Dream Team’.

However, his season was cut short when in the August derby against Hull KR Lineham injured his other ankle and that was followed by a wrist reconstruction in the off-season.

“Given how I went last year, it’s been really frustrating to get three fairy serious injuries in a row,” said Lineham.

“At the end of last season I injured my other ankle and had the boot on for eight weeks. The wrist reconstruction meant 9 weeks in pot so that accumulated to about 15 weeks without full use of your body.

“I didn’t do any contact until after Christmas and I was really behind.

“I had a nightmare against Catalan, really struggled, Saints wasn’t the best either but by the time the Bradford game came around I felt like I was starting to catch up.

“Then it happened, with 23 seconds left in the game, I was devastated. It wasn’t a bad tackle just an awkward one and I felt it go with the pressure of the players on me.

“For the first six weeks I couldn’t walk on it and had to move back home to my dad’s. It was tough, I felt like I was a kid again having to be waited on hand and foot.

“Once out the boot I threw myself into rehab and was in every morning doing what I could to get back as soon as possible.

“Radders was straight up with me and said you’re bottom of the pecking order, keep working hard and wait for your chance. I did, and it came sooner than I thought.”

Want more Rugby League news and features? Subscribe to the online version of League Express newspaper and Rugby League World magazine. You can also connect with Total Rugby League on the social media platform of your choice.