Catching up with Webbo

Posted: Monday 22nd June 2020 - 5:00 PM

We’re sure it can be hard to remember the very first time you watched rugby league, especially for those who grow up with it in their lives, but Webbo remembers his father introducing him to the greatest game from a very young age, right at the coal face.

“Sitting on the sideline watching my dad play and he used to put me up on a blanket by myself and give me a packet of chips and a drink before running off to play. I used to sit there and watch him play footy, he’d check in on me during the game and I think that is where I fell in love with it.

“I supported the Canterbury Bulldogs because I used to love Terry Lamb and I really enjoyed the way he played and had dreams of being a halfback but that very quickly went out the window… so I supported them and when the Warriors (New Zealand Warriors) came in I think I was almost forced to support them by dad. But then I started supporting Melbourne when they came in and I was fortunate enough to get signed by them.”

Whilst the Storm are a richly established team over in the NRL now, back when Jake was growing up it was still quite a fresher, newer venture and they did not go about their youth development in the same way as other clubs.

“I was born in Melbourne and moved to Brisbane at a young age with my father and I think that’s where the rugby league sort of came into it, otherwise I might have been kicking a ball around with AFL players if I stayed over there. AFL is ridiculously big over there and I have no doubt that if I stayed in Melbourne that’s probably where I would have ended up but I’m very thankful that I didn’t, had to be too fit to run around like them!

“Melbourne did it different to a lot of the teams over there they didn’t sort of pick a large number of players to be pushed into their development squad, so there was probably ten or eleven of us from all different age groups and we just went through the ranks, they put all the energy they had into a select few. I came through with the likes of Cam Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk, I was with some very talented players and I think Melbourne did really well with them and you thrived off of learning from some of the best developing each other.

“It was a really exciting time coming through with players with that calibre and look where they are today, probably three of the best in the world at their positions so I was very happy to be in a class with them. At a young age I left school at 17 and the next year I went full time as a player and debuted when I was, I think, 19 or 20 against Penrith so that was something I’d aimed for every since I could remember. To have it come true was almost surreal and that was my first taste of NRL and from there I never really looked back.”

Not many people get to say they were the first locale-born person to play for that locale-team, but Jake Webster will always be a part of the Storm’s history in that regard.

“They made a big deal about that so it was very special in it’s own right and to have all my family there, I’ve got a lot of family who live in Melbourne I’m half Greek and Melbourne is the highest Greek population outside of Athens! So that was a pretty big thing and the Greek newspaper got involved and they made a big deal about it, it was a proud moment with all my family there. It was just another feather in my cap to be the first Melbourne born player to play for them, it was big for the Club and it was for me.”

Flashing forward to Jake’s time in England he was a Robin for Hull Kingston Rovers before joining Castleford Tigers after wanting to pursue a new challenge.

“My agent at the time said ‘Look Cas are interested’ I said they’re a great team and I lived in Brough so it’s a 40 minute drive, so I sat and spoke to Basil (Ian Millward) and he told me what was hoping to do, the players he wanted to bring in and it was part of a bit of a rebuild of the club. I thought I was in the right headspace and I could a big part of something here, I was at the right age where I’d done enough in my career to help and confident enough to step into the breach that Basil asked me to. It was an easy decision, we didn’t go back and forth too much, ‘Here’s your contract’ ‘That’s perfect thank you very much’ and we got it done. That is how my time started with the Tigers.”

Jake over the course of the next six years would go on to be a key player in the Tigers and one of the older heads in Daryl Powell’s squad, but when the time came for the Club and Webbo to part ways it was a bittersweet moment for him.

“A lot of things at Cas have been big focal points in my life, I met my beautiful fiancé Misha while I was at Cas and we had our baby boy at Cas, big life milestones and they will always stay very close to my heart. The Club was fantastic through all those big parts of my career and my life, they supported me through all that the fans are great, and the Club was great, the boys were amazing and it was pretty hard.

“I wasn’t forced out but there wasn’t anything there for me anymore and I think they wanted to go in a different direction and maybe I’d done my bash. I had a great career at Cas and I still wish I had another year or two, if I knuckled down and looked after myself a bit better I probably would have got another year or two playing Super League but that might have been the end of me and I might not still be going today.

“At that last game I fought back the tears for as long as I possibly could, to tell the boys was hard, I think they all knew it was coming but it was still pretty hard still and I sometimes miss it. Me and Misha sit here, and we say we miss the boys, miss the ground, miss the games, and miss the atmosphere. It’s difficult to even think about really because it was such a big part of my life Cas and I gave everything and more to that club and I appreciate and thank them for the opportunity they gave me to show that I can actually play rugby league still and stuck by me.”

Listen to Jake Webster discuss his rugby league life and more on his episode of the Tiger Talk Podcast on Tigers TV, it’s free for all to watch or listen and is a MUST for any avid Fords fan.

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