Matt Johnstone, right, was cut in Episode 6 of The NRL Rookie.

Rookie Johnstone won't die wondering

Matt Johnstone may have been cut from The NRL Rookie in Episode 6, but he almost never even applied to be on the show due to self-doubt, which he has now conquered thanks to his experience on the show.

After signing up for Matraville Tigers at a young age, Johnstone says he became "addicted" to rugby league and has been playing footy ever since. But he still had to be convinced by a close friend to apply for The NRL Rookie.

"I found out about The NRL Rookie on Facebook but I didn't think too much of it as I thought I was too old and that they would be looking for someone younger than my age of 27 at the time," Johnstone told NRL.com.

"But a good friend of mine kept sending me the link and telling me I should try out. I kept messaging back that I didn't think I'd make it and it wasn't worth it, but he said to me 'Don't die wondering, give it a crack'. 

"So I put in an application and everything went really well. I went to the trials and everything fell into place and I was fortunate enough to get a start which was fantastic."

It's a step that sent Johnstone on one of the best experiences of his life, travelling to Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand to play football with a like-minded group of guys and meeting some of his favourite NRL stars.

"The show was amazing. The best thing was being with all the boys and experiencing everything together. Meeting Billy Slater was awesome – I've been a massive fan of his since I was a kid," he said.

Yet the same self-doubt that almost stopped Johnstone applying for The NRL Rookie also became a challenge during the show. But with the help of the coaches and those around him, it was something he was able to overcome.

"The biggest challenge for me was probably overcoming my own head. I would constantly think to myself that I was too old and I couldn't do it," Johnstone said.

"But I kept reinforcing in my mind that they wouldn't have me on the show if they thought I was too old and when you get over that hurdle you can start concentrating on your game. 

"It was just about taking everything on board from Freddy, Lammy and MG (Brad Fittler, Adrian Lam and Mark Geyer). Obviously we didn't have much time so I was trying to put it all into my game as quick as possible and we knew if we didn't, we would be a good chance of going home.

"The biggest help for me was Lammy. He was an absolute inspiration on the show. He sat down with me and told me the ins and outs of my game and pointed out exactly what I needed to improve.

"Those guys showed me all the one-percenters that you need to make it in rugby league. It's stuff that I never though you needed until I was on the show and it has really improved my game out of sight."

Johnstone is now playing hooker for Dapto Canaries in the Illawarra Coal League. They are undefeated after eight rounds and are top of the table, with Johnstone the leading try scorer with 10 tries.

"We've got a really strong team with some former-NRL players like Beau Henry, Joel Reddy, Keith Lulia and former Dragons and Titans player Michael Henderson as the captain/coach," Johnstone said.

"On the show I was playing a bit of halfback which for me was a bit of new territory. It was a challenge for me as I prefer to play hooker, probably because of my pace out of dummy-half and the ability to catch markers and A-defenders napping. 

"I'm really enjoying my footy at the moment, and through all my experience from The NRL Rookie I'm playing the best football I've ever played."

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AUSTRALIAN BROADCAST DETAILS:

Each episode will air five times during the week on free to air television across the Nine Network:

• PREMIERE – Tuesday – GO! 7.30PM (SYD/MEL/BRIS)

• ENCORE 1 - Wednesday - CH9 10.30PM (SYD/BRIS) 

• ENCORE 2 - Saturday - CH9 1PM (BRIS)

• ENCORE 3 - Sunday - CH9 2.30PM (SYD) 

• ENCORE 4 - Monday - GO! 11.30PM (SYD/MEL/BRIS/ADE/PER)

Please note: these time may vary from week to week so be sure to check your local guides.