TOMMY JOHNSON has spoken of his frustration after missing the whole of North Wales Crusaders’ 2019 campaign through injury.

The long-serving full-back was sidelined for 12 months after suffering torn cartilage in his knee during a game at the end of the 2018 season.

Discussing his enforced break from the game, Johnson said: “It was pretty tough missing a full year.

“I’ve never been out of the game for that long before and it’s frustrating when you’re waiting around for the operation date.

“There was lots of rehab afterwards, when you’re going through the strength and conditioning and working towards getting your match fitness back.

“When I finally did get it done it was too late for me to play any part in the games at the end of last season.

“But I’ve had a lot of time in the build-up to this season to get myself fit and ready and that will stand me in good stead this year, hopefully.

“Getting back out on the pitch for the first time in pre-season felt a bit weird after so long out, but you switch on as soon as the game starts and it’s like you’ve never been away.”

Johnson, who has made a club-record 166 appearances and amassed an impressive1,312 points, has been named alongside Karl Ashall as joint-captain this season.

With Ashall currently out with injury, Johnson will lead the line in Sunday’s Challenge Cup fourth round clash against Hunslet.

Johnson was in unerring form in his side’s third round victory, kicking 10 of his 11 conversion attempts in a 64-6 victory at Rochdale Mayfield.

But he admits that League One rivals Hunslet will pose a much sterner test when they visit the Queensway Stadium this weekend.

“I think it’s going to be a really tough game for us,” he said of the West Yorkshire side.

“Obviously they’re a team we know very well from playing them in League One over the last five years or so and we’ve had some tight games against them.

“We’re at home though and this is a competition everyone is desperate to do well in and we’re feeling positive about it.

“Hopefully we can turn in a big performance and get ourselves a place in the fifth round draw.”

Club stalwart Johnson boasts a wealth of Challenge Cup experience and ranks playing in a fourth round clash at Wigan in 2012 among his most memorable moments in the competition.

The Cru were thrashed 98-4 by a Warriors side containing Sam Burgess, who ran in six of the hosts’ 16 tries.

Johnson added: “We were hammered, but it was a great experience to play at Wigan against some of the best players in the country. Playing against my brother (Paul) a year later when he was at Hull was another one. We were on the wrong end of the scoreline again - but it was a big occasion for me.

“Pre-season went well and we tested ourselves against some very strong sides and competed well.”