Castleford Tigers veteran Joe Westerman out to complete redemption arc in role as co-captain

Twelve months ago, the thought of Joe Westerman captaining Castleford Tigers would have been inconceivable.

The experienced forward went into the 2023 season carrying the shame of a drunken sex act that went viral and rocked his family, as well as the club.

The Tigers hit Westerman with a substantial fine and ordered him to undertake community service to educate young people on the effects of alcohol and the dangers of social media when in the public eye.

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The Castleford native was taunted on his return to former club Hull FC in round one and has not been allowed to forget his indiscretion.

But it says much about his character that he fronted up throughout a difficult campaign for the Tigers and claimed the Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year awards for the second season running.

Such has been his influence since returning to Wheldon Road from Wakefield Trinity in 2022, Westerman was named as co-captain by new Castleford boss Craig Lingard alongside Paul McShane.

A figure of ridicule this time last year, the 34-year-old now has the opportunity to complete his redemption arc by using his leadership position to warn the next generation of the potential pitfalls.

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While he concedes he may not be the best role model based on actions, Westerman is hoping his story ensures the same mistakes that held him back are not repeated by others.

Joe Westerman has come a long way in the space of 12 months. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Joe Westerman has come a long way in the space of 12 months. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Joe Westerman has come a long way in the space of 12 months. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

"That's what I'm trying to do," he told The Yorkshire Post.

"With the incident that happened last year, it's very hard for me to tell a young kid not to do this and that.

"I kind of hate myself for doing what I did from that side as well because I want to get through to them that you have to train hard in the gym, eat right and can't be drinking every weekend.

"None of us are perfect and there are going to be bumps in the road for everybody but if you work hard when you're at training and look after yourself, you will be a better player. To be fair to them, a lot of the boys listen.

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Joe Westerman, right, is preparing for his 18th season. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Joe Westerman, right, is preparing for his 18th season. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Joe Westerman, right, is preparing for his 18th season. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

"There are always regrets. I wish I'd known then what I know now.”

Although he has enjoyed a long career since starting out at his hometown club in 2007, Westerman, by his own admission, has failed to fulfil his full potential.

The loose forward reached the Challenge Cup final with Hull and both showpiece events in 2016 as a Warrington Wolves player, only to fall short on all three occasions.

Westerman's talent was recognised with an England debut in the 2014 Four Nations but his failure to add to that sole cap is a source of frustration, although he did feature against the Combined Nations All Stars in 2021.

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Joe Westerman was Castleford's top performer in 2023. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)Joe Westerman was Castleford's top performer in 2023. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)
Joe Westerman was Castleford's top performer in 2023. (Photo: Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com)

He feels he has paid the price for a lack of application as he was making his way in the game.

"When I was younger, I didn't really want to train and missed stuff in the gym," said Westerman.

"That's the reason why I never got the best out of myself and didn't get to where I wanted to be, such as England.

"I started getting that right five years ago and have had the best years of my career.

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"I work harder in the gym, look after myself with massages and don't go out all weekend every weekend.

"Making those changes have helped me become a better player. It's made me enjoy it more as well."

Joe Westerman celebrates the Magic Weekend win over Leeds. (Photo: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)Joe Westerman celebrates the Magic Weekend win over Leeds. (Photo: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)
Joe Westerman celebrates the Magic Weekend win over Leeds. (Photo: Paul Currie/SWpix.com)

Westerman's resurgence may have come too late to achieve his international ambitions but he plans to enjoy it for as long as possible.

"I love playing," added Westerman, who is under contract for the next two seasons.

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"These last five years, I've enjoyed it more than I have ever done in my career.

"As long as my body holds up and I’m playing well for the club that I love, I'll keep playing."

Once one of the hottest prospects in Super League, Westerman is now an elder statesman at Wheldon Road.

Castleford are being written off following their brush with relegation in 2023 but Westerman has a good feeling about the new squad Lingard has assembled.

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"I think it's a good thing that not many people are expecting much," said Westerman.

"We know where we're at as a group and know that we can push anyone if our standards are good.

"We've spoken about the effort-based areas. If you see a bunch of blokes that are putting 100 per cent effort in every week and are really playing for each other, that's all you can ask for.

"I like where we're at and think we've taken a lot of steps forward during pre-season."

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