Wakefield Trinity Wildcats winger Tom Johnstone is eager to get off to the best possible start when Widnes Vikings visit Belle Vue tomorrow afternoon. (Kick-off 3pm).
After a long and tough pre-season, the new look Trinity squad are focused on starting the new campaign strongly and their first opportunity comes tomorrow afternoon against a Widnes side who will be looking to better their 9th placed finish last season by breaking into the play-off's this time around.
Johnstone admits the general feeling across the camp is "pure excitement" after building for this fixture since the start of pre-season training back in November.
"We're all buzzing. Everyone just can't wait to get out there now." said Johnstone.
"When you're in training at 6:30am every morning and don't finish until late, knowing it's getting you in the best possible shape for Round 1 is what keeps you going."
"I've really benefited from my first pre-season with Brian. He's worked us all really hard but he's so enthusiastic and I think I'm maturing as a player as well as a person. It's just pure excitement for us now."
With an influx of new signings during the off-season, Johnstone believes the Wildcats are capable of a big season and has spoke of the impact they have all had both on the field and off it.
"We've signed quite a few new players in this off-season and each and everyone of them have added something. Everyone's training with smiles on their faces and working hard for one another and it's a great place to be right now."
"The players Brian has brought in are all top quality and fantastic blokes. We've got plenty of pace at the back with Ben Jones-Bishop now, Liam Finn has been brought in to guide us around the park and combine with Jacob Miller and our pack is looking massive now with Anthony England, Tinirau Arona and Anthony Tupou adding to what we already had."
"Everyone knows they have to play at the top of their game consistently if they want to keep their shirts because there are players that are waiting in the wings for an opportunity to prove themselves."
Johnstone made his breakthrough season in 2015, getting over the whitewash 9 times in 13 appearances. That form has seen him been given the number 2 shirt by Brian Smith and the 20-year old is hungry to kick on this season, but admits the initial goal is to play consistently and cement down a spot in the team.
"For me this season, I just want to kick on and improve as a player and a professional. I've highlighted a few things I need to work on and Brian along with the other coaches have been great with me."
"First of all though, I need to be playing consistently at a high standard so I can keep myself in the team. Richie Owen's coming back into contention now from his injury so I can't afford to slack off because I won't be playing, it's as simple as that."
Tomorrow sees the Wildcats kick-off the Super League on home turf for the first time in many years and Johnstone admits home advantage will be a huge boost throughout the season.
"The fans are absolutely awesome." stated Johnstone.
"For me, they're the best in the league without a shadow of a doubt. Last season they were incredible the way they kept turning up and supporting us even though we weren't getting the results."
"If they do the business off the field and be the 18th man, we'll put everything in to do the business on the grass."
"Hopefully we'll send them home happy and celebrating a win on Sunday evening."