TOM HEMINGWAY is finally hoping to lose the tag as one of Super League’s unluckiest players.
No-one can doubt the ability of the 22-year-old goalkicking half-back, whose talents have been recognised from a very early age.
But despite being a regular England international at schoolboy level and frequently earning the title of ‘Top Gun’ at national summer camps as the best rugby league player in the country for his age, Hemingway has still not been able to establish himself at Super League level.
Part of that is down to the players at the Giants who have been ahead of him in the half-back pecking order, with the likes of Brad Drew, Chris Thorman, Stanley Gene, Robbie Paul, Luke Robinson and Kevin Brown all on the scene.
But just as significant – if not more so – has been the wretched luck that has continually plagued him.
Had Hemingway not suffered injury after injury during his fledgling professional career, it could have been a completely different story and the Batley-based player could now be one of the game’s leading lights.
Fortunately, Hemingway has been able to stay positive throughout a series of setbacks, which have included major shoulder surgery on more than one occasion, and he is hoping to finally put his nightmare times behind him and establish himself at the top level.
“Throughout my time at the club it’s been the case that every piece of luck I’ve had has been bad luck!” said a philosophical Hemingway.
“It’s obviously made it hard for me, as well as incredibly frustrating.
“Every time I seem to be making progress on the Super League front, I seem to get struck down by injury. It’s not good, I can tell you.
“I don’t know exactly why that is, but my body just hasn’t been up to it over the past few years.
“Maybe it’s because I’ve not had a decent pre-season for three years, because that’s when you really prepare your body for the competitive challenges that lie ahead.
“While everyone else in the squad has been gearing up for the start of the season, I’ve been on the operating table and then in rehab. It’s something I wouldn’t recommend!
“But I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that such pre-seasons are a thing of the past, and I can now start to finally get my career on track.”
Hemingway is able to think like that right now after a successful return to competitive action with the Reserves.
He marked his return just over a fortnight ago by leading the side to victory at Hull and was then even more instrumental in last week’s Reserve success at home to Leeds Rhinos.
And he’s obviously hoping that’s a taste of things to come.
“It was fantastic to get back on the field, although that was later than I’d originally hoped,” he added.
“Given my luck over the years, it was typical that I broke a hand in my first first-team training session this year after recovering from my latest shoulder surgery!
“That set me back another six weeks, so you can imagine how pleased I was to play at Hull the other week, and it was also a great relief to come through it in good shape.
“Unfortunately, I then suffered yet another slight setback when I missed training the following week due to tonsilitis!
“But by the time the Leeds game approached, I was feeling a lot better and Nathan (Brown) just told me to go out and play as best as I could.
“Luckily, on this occasion, everything went as well as I could have possibly hoped and I felt I was able to contribute a bit more to the team.
“I’m still not quite there in terms of my match fitness and my timing, but I am definitely heading in the right direction, although I know I’ve still got a lot more work to do before I can think about playing Super League again.
“Even if Luke Robinson got injured this weekend I don’t think I’d be the player to bring in as his replacement just yet. I wouldn’t be ready, and I’m sure Nathan knows that.
“The only thing I’m thinking about at the moment is getting some regular training sessions under Nathan under my belt and continuing to improve my level of fitness and timing.
“I don’t want to take things too quickly, because the last thing I want is another major injury setback.
“But I am definitely feeling a lot happier about life now.
“I’m hoping having to start training at ‘silly-o’clock’ is now a thing of the past (players who are in rehabilitation start training at 7.30am every morning) and I can learn as much as possible off Nathan and start playing Super League on a regular basis.
“That thought has always been the one thing that has kept me going.”