The inside story on how Wakefield Trinity secured Tom Johnstone for 2025

Aaron Bower
Tom Johnstone Wakefield Trinity Alamy

England international Tom Johnstone will return to Wakefield Trinity for 2025 and beyond

It may well have been rumoured for a long time – but the deal Wakefield Trinity wanted above any other was, quite literally, months in the making. 

There is a fair argument that the signatures of both Tom Johnstone and Mike McMeeken represent equally significant captures for Wakefield given their reputation and ability. But it was Johnstone that the club always wanted as their number one target – not least because of the emotional affinity both Johnstone and Trinity have for one another.

And this is how they got the deal over the line.

Johnstone, in truth, never wanted to leave Wakefield way back when – but felt compelled to do so in order to further his career. At the time of his departure, he was an ambitious winger, the jewel in the Trinity crown, but at a club who were struggling to compete. Johnstone wanted silverware, and the chance to compete for trophies.

And it was selling that ambition to the England international that was vital. Wakefield had identified Johnstone and McMeeken long before a ball had even been kicked this season – though naturally, they couldn’t formally approach or conclude any deal until after the anti-tampering deadline of May 1, club sources told Love Rugby League.

But things only started to become serious when Johnstone indicated to Catalans in the early stages of the 2024 season that he had a desire to return to England with his family, and be closer to home.

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While clubs are not officially allowed to sign players until May 1, there are exceptions: take Leeds and Ryan Hall, for example. Hull KR had informed Hall there would be no deal for him in 2025 and Leeds were, with Rovers’ permission, able to get in early and announce it before the May 1 deadline.

And with clubs sniffing, Wakefield wasted no time as soon as they were allowed in declaring their interest with Johnstone’s management.

And while the pulling power of Daryl Powell was influential as head coach, it was the presence of new owner Matt Ellis that played a significant part in proceedings.

Johnstone’s family were sold the short and long-term vision by Ellis. About how Wakefield is no longer a club that will be struggling at the bottom end of Super League: they will instead be aiming to compete for major honours in their newly-renovated stadium. They were impressed by what was on offer both on and off the field for the future of the club.

That reportedly convinced Johnstone, with other clubs trying to sign him, that a return to Wakefield was the right move for him. Club sources have insisted to Love Rugby League that sentiment was taken out of the occasion on both sides of the deal.

Johnstone wanted to return to a club in England that followed Catalans’ lofty ambitions of being in a position to win trophies. Had that not been apparent in his meetings with the club, he may well have gone elsewhere.

And Wakefield did their homework and due-diligence on Johnstone too as if he were any other player – and have been impressed by how he appears to have put his injury problems suffered while in his first spell at Trinity behind him.

In the end, it made a deal straightforward enough to conclude – which is why it has already been announced so swiftly, and one of Wakefield’s favourite sons in recent times will be donning the red, white and blue of Trinity again in 2025.

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