VETERAN Kiwi Jake Webster admits he was not worthy of getting in any side earlier this year but is now ready to show he can shine with Castleford Tigers for years to come.
The strong-running centre, 31, has been one of their form players of late, something he hopes to continue when heading to derby rivals Wakefield Trinity in tomorrow’s penultimate round of regular Super League fixtures.
However, he concedes head coach Daryl Powell was right to lay into him for his indifferent displays earlier this season.
Now the former Hull KR star is keen to not only fire Tigers into the top four but to earn a new deal, too.
“At the start of the year I wouldn’t have got in any side – I was the first to admit that,” said Webster, who hopes to recover from a head injury that saw him depart Sunday’s loss at Hull early.
“I got a few disgruntled words from the coach. I had a bit of a head knock then and my head was a bit iffy so he pulled me aside and told me to get myself right.
“I worked harder than I have done in the last few years to get a shot again; whether it’s to prove to Cas’ that I’m worth another deal or to someone else.
“I think I’m starting to do that; there’s little things I need to work on but if I keep working hard like I am I’ll be around a few years yet.”
Undoubtedly, those who witnessed Webster in action early on last week will concur; he plagued Hull’s left-edge defence with his purposeful running and deft handling before accidentally being decked by FC winger Steve Michaels.
“My head’s still on my neck so it’s not too bad!” he joked.
“Seriously, though, it was sore early in the week but it’s certainly getting better. I don’t remember a thing about it. I watched the video; I caught a stray elbow and that was the end of my day.
“I blanked out and woke up in the sheds. It was probably the worst I’ve ever been done but I feel really good now.
“I was doing my job Sunday; the coach had a plan and it was starting to come together before I went off, which was unfortunate.”
Castleford certainly missed his rugged presence when he departed; they squandered a 14-6 interval lead to lose 21-18, ending their five-game winning run and jeopardising their hopes of a top-four spot – and an extra home game in the Super 8s.
“The extra home game has been made aware to us but we hit a bit of a speed bump last weekend,” insisted Webster.
“That was the Cas we don’t like to be seen as but, hopefully, we’ll right the wrongs this Sunday. Hull wanted it more and we’ve got to turn our attitude around.
“It’s a derby and form and league positions go out of the window – it’s about getting the bragging rights.”
Trinity are bottom with just one league win in 19 league games and destined for the qualifiers.
However, they have showed signs of recovery since revered Australian coach Brian Smith arrived last month and did beat Castleford away in February before their dismal slide began.
Ex-Melbourne Storm star Webster admitted: “They’re improving week on week.
“You don’t know what you’re going to get from them but they’ll come out firing I know that much.
“But we don’t want to disappoint our fans after losing the first game of the season; it’s for the team, the town and the fans as well as the club.
“We’re going to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get the bragging rights and ensure we stay in touch of finishing in the top four.”
Webster is out of contract this season but the player, who won the Tri-Nations with New Zealand as long ago as 2005, wants to carry on at his new home even though they have signed ex-Hull FC centre Ben Crooks for 2016.
“I can honestly say I’m in no rush to leave,” he said. “As for how long I can go on, the sky’s the limit really, as long as the body keeps going I know I’m mentally tough to keep going.
“If I had to put a number on it I’d say three more years, but look at Lynchy (35-year-old Cas prop Andy Lynch).
“I might have to move into the pack but I’m just loving my footy at the moment and loving Cas. I’m very happy here, especially now I’m starting to get a combination with (winger) Denny (Solomona).”