Posted: Tuesday 4th January 2022

Westerman: Unfinished Business

After twelve years, Joe Westerman is back home at his beloved Castleford Tigers and re-joins his boyhood club an older, wiser player and man.

This feature is taken from our December edition of ROAR - Castleford Tigers' official monthly club magazine which is just £2 per issue.

Joe, now a 32-year-old veteran of Super League came through the Cas ranks and made an impact early in his career as a pivotal part of the club earning top-flight promotion once again in 2007. Fast forward and he has been at Hull FC, Warrington, Toronto, and Hull again before joining neighbours Wakefield ahead of finally coming back darn’t lane, and pretty much working from near his own doorstep.

“First thing was getting in the car and it only taking me about two minutes to get here! It’s really good, to be back and around the place, I’m a bit older, bit wiser, and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the season,” Westerman told ROAR.

“I think living so close it’s so easy, get up, shower, and come in. 20 minutes travel wasn’t much for Wakey but it still is fuss isn’t it and I have traveled when I’ve been at other clubs, and it can be tough. So, it’s so easy for me and my body feels really good. I’m working hard, I don’t want to miss many games.”

I’m grabbing this chance with two hands.

Returning to Wheldon Road to play for Cas wasn’t just great news for Joe himself, but his entire family too.

“It’s massive, I think from being what six-year-old? I’ve supported Cas. To be stood on the terraces watching and then to play for them was a dream.

“I can’t wait for that first run out at The Jungle, it’s something I always dreamed of – to come back here and hopefully finish here. But I always said I’d never come back if I didn’t have it, if I didn’t have any play in me and I’d like to think I’m still playing pretty good rugby. It’ll be good to come out there, the whole family are Cas fans.

“It’s a bit of unfinished business really, I think I left when there was a little bit going on with myself and with the team. I didn’t really want to go but it was a case of I had to, so to get a chance to play here again and be back at Wheldon Road is brilliant. I’m grabbing this chance with two hands.”

As Head Coach Lee Radford alluded to when the news was confirmed Joe was joining Cas for 2022, arguably he is the best ball-playing loose forward in Betfred Super League. Since joining Wakefield Trinity in 2020 he has been one of their best players, week in and week out, and a lot of it came down to some changes Joe made.

“I really enjoyed my time last year; I think physical wise I trained a lot harder than what I have in the past. I kind of realised you can’t get through rugby league just being smart on the field, you have to train hard in the gym and in training.

“I think I played well, I enjoyed my time last year but once again it’s a new season, back at my home club really and I’ve got to just keep going, training hard and then hopefully on the field it will all take care of itself.”

Such good form earned an England call-up and Joe featured in the mid-season match against the Combined Nations All Stars. With a World Cup to look forward to as well at the end of 2022, Joe would love to be part of it – but it’s the daily work he’s focussing on.

“It’s always there, throughout my career I’ve said if you’re playing well enough you will get picked. We’ve seen Shaun Wane is picking on form, he doesn’t pick just players for picking them sake. It’s always a goal of mine to get there but it would take care of itself.

“This, pre-season and training is the week in and week out stuff what gets you there, and that’s what I’ve got to get my head onto every week - playing well and consistently.”

The cold, harsh winter months make our summer sport seem so far away, but this time is vital for the team as Joe elaborates on.

“Cold days are tough, running into a headwind but it’s been good, good character building.

“I love it, it is exactly what I expected it to be – you turn up and all the boys are good, the coaching staff are outstanding and I think the facilities are a lot better as well. I’m really enjoying it and we haven’t got too long to wait until we’re playing a bit of rugby and back on the field.”

Already the players appear to be a tight-knit and close group of men who all want the best for each other.

“We are and you look at the group and it’s been so good because most of the boys were in pretty much at the same time, all at once together, not in dribs and drabs. Already we’re really good and a tight group, I can’t wait for the season to roll around I think we have such a good squad here. Being a Cas lad and seeing the squad has to be exciting.”

That squad Westy is part of is made up of eight new faces, a large turnaround of a First Team squad in any season, and it’s got Joe ready and raring to go come the new year.

“I think the signings what has been made for the new season has been outstanding, we definitely have a team that can be competing every week, and definitely be competing for the Challenge Cup and the top four. I think when we get into the end of pre-season and the boys have been training together, bits of plays and seeing how we are getting on with the new coaching staff, I’m sure we will be good and firing.

“It’s exciting, it’s exciting for the town, for the fans especially, I think. You can look at the team and say this is a team that should be in that top four and pushing for silverware. Me personally, I’m really excited and once we get into the pre-season friendlies, I think the fans will start buzzing a bit more – I think it’s something really special and I’m so glad to be a part of it.”

Tasked with taking charge of this squad is the new boss, Lee Radford, a man who Joe Westerman knows just a little bit…

“Radders, what can I say? I’ve been under him for about seven years really on and off, I’m looking forward to it – it’ll be good. When you’re a bit older and a kind of senior player now it’s going to be different than him having to give me a bit of a telling off and looking after me. Him and Andy Last are two great coaches I’ve been under, I’m sure the fans and everyone else will enjoy them being around the place, they are two great coaches.”

There are a number of younger players who are in the First Team environment who will benefit highly from the older men with whom they play alongside. Joe is ready to help them up their game which is not something he particularly concerned himself with earlier in his career.

“If you’d have asked me two years ago, I’d have said no but I think last year at Wakefield, I kind of took on that role a little bit. It was something I never really did if I’m honest, I used to watch the young players, but I enjoy trying to teach them and tell them a few basics of my knowledge.

"That is what I’m looking to do now, like I said, I’m getting older, and if you can give them that one extra percent it can help them out massively when it comes to playing. I’ll be looking to do that with the young kids that are coming through and hopefully they do get that extra one percent.”

Westy’s return means he is linking back up with some familiar faces on the field such as Liam Watts and Bureta Faraimo, and he’s keen to build partnerships with players he’s gone against over the years.

“It’s tough because you always play against them so you kind of know people. Macca (Paul McShane) is a big influence at nine, he’s going to be great to play with, but I’ve played with a bunch of the lads before. I do think Truey (Jake Trueman) is going to be class, I’m looking forward to seeing how he goes, everyone knows he is a quality six and I think injury free he’s one of the very best in the competition.”

In closing, Joe wanted to thank supporters for the warm welcome back to the Tigers.

“Thanks for having me back! This is somewhere I will be when I retire, I’ll be in with them stood watching the players as well, it’s exciting times and I’m really glad to be back here and involved in this new era.”

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