FEW players can be counting down the days to the new season as fervently as Hull FC’s Joe Westerman.
Granted, on the eve of the Super League Grand Final, this campaign is still not even over.
However, after the difficulties the former England loose-forward has endured during the current term he is certainly relishing the opportunity to get started again in 2019.
Westerman began the year with Toronto Wolfpack after his shock £130,000 move from Warrington Wolves but – after just a handful of games for the Championship favourites – he fell out of favour and was surprisingly released in April.
It was not long before Hull, where the player had enjoyed five seasons before being sold to Warrington in 2015, showed their interest in his services again and he rejoined Lee Radford’s side on a short-term deal initially until the end of the season.
After first working hard to improve his fitness, the 28-year-old made his ‘second’ debut in the game against home-town club Castleford Tigers and, given the way he effortlessly slotted into that midfield ball-handling role, it was like he had never been away.
It was a bit of a shock to the system; I felt fit and with the role Radders wanted me doing I was really enjoying it.Joe Westerman
Nevertheless just as Westerman started to show his influence he suffered a knee injury that, after a failed comeback in the 72-10 loss at Wakefield Trinity in July, eventually required surgery.
He would not play again although Hull – whose campaign petered out embarrassingly with an 11-game losing run – had seen enough to last month announce they had taken up the option of another year on his contract.
Westerman, voted Super League’s Young Player of the Year in 2008 while at Castleford, now hopes to regain the form that saw him earn his solitary England cap four years ago.
“Yeah, I’d like to think there’s a bit left in me yet,” he told The Yorkshire Post. “I think it is going to be massive for this club next year.
“It’s had two good years (winning the Challenge Cup twice) and then this blip (finishing eighth) so it is massive for us next season.
“I’m hoping to get fit and push us towards the goals we want – winning silverware again.
“It was really upsetting (to get injured). When I came in from Toronto I wasn’t fit enough to be playing Super League both physically and mentally.
“But when I started playing I really started enjoying my rugby.
“It was a bit of a shock to the system; I felt fit and with the role Radders wanted me doing I was really enjoying it.
“Then I got that little injury that was just due to a lack of pre-season the year before, being a bit too overweight and not playing for weeks on end. I had eight or nine weeks out (at Toronto) and then just jumped into Super League.
“But I came back a bit early (at Wakefield). I wanted to help us get into the top four, but it wasn’t meant to be.
“It’s all about next year now, getting everything sorted, getting fit, being ready to go in February and pushing for that massive year.
“It’s good the club had that faith in me with that contract and now it’s for me to repay them and myself.”
Westerman admits he has rediscovered his appetite for the game after that difficult spell with Wolfpack.
“I’m not saying anything about Toronto – I played some games there – but I just wasn’t fit so maybe that’s why I didn’t enjoy it as much,” he explained.
“But when you start enjoying your rugby as much as I did when I came here – and obviously it’s the role that Lee’s got me playing – it was good for me and my rugby.
“Straightaway I knew I wanted to be here, back at Hull FC, again.”