Wakefield Trinity’s Joe Westerman to make up for lost time if England call

CRUCIAL lifestyle changes have underpinned Joe Westerman’s excellent renaissance, alterations the Wakefield Trinity star wishes he had made seven years ago to save him from blowing his England chance.
Wakefield’s Joe Westerman (Picture: SWPix.com).Wakefield’s Joe Westerman (Picture: SWPix.com).
Wakefield’s Joe Westerman (Picture: SWPix.com).

The experienced former Hull FC loose-forward scored his 100th career try when he helped Wakefield defeat Leigh Centurions 30-20 on Sunday in what was also his 350th game.

It marked a third straight win for the West Yorkshire club after a nine-match losing streak dating back to last year and Westerman’s consistently stellar displays have undoubtedly helped drive them out of their rut.

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Indeed, such is the sustained quality of his performances, Trinity head coach Chris Chester said he would be recommending the ball-handling No 13 to Shaun Wane when he meets the England chief today.

Westerman, 31, has not played for his country since debuting for Steve McNamara in the 32-26 win against Samoa at the 2014 Four Nations.

“I’m enjoying it as much as I’ve ever done,” he told The Yorkshire Post, when asked about his current rich vein of form.

“I’ve made a few changes away from rugby and a lot of changes to my game, too. Some of the things I’m doing now I thought were just crap earlier in my career.

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“Things like massages, recovery sessions and just taking care of my body better.

Milestone: Wakefield's Joe Westerman celebrates scoring his 100th try. Picture: SWPixMilestone: Wakefield's Joe Westerman celebrates scoring his 100th try. Picture: SWPix
Milestone: Wakefield's Joe Westerman celebrates scoring his 100th try. Picture: SWPix

“I’m not drinking as much or going out as much. I’m spending more time with my family. I guess I’m just growing up really and I’m massively feeling the benefits.

“I wish I knew 10 years ago what I know now. But it’s also what I’m doing in the gym as well. I always thought my skill would get me through my career.

“It’s taken me all this time, though, to realise I needed to do more in the gym – to get strong and feel strong – to allow me to do more on the field. I’m going to work happy now; I want to go to training and I’m enjoying it when I’m there. Even when we were losing it wasn’t doom and gloom; the lads, Chezzy, coaches, CEO and everyone have been great.”

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Westerman has always been a talented player, ever since emerging as a gifted, line-breaking No 13 for home-town Castleford Tigers.

Cap: Joe Westerman gets a pass away on his one international appearance against Samoa.Cap: Joe Westerman gets a pass away on his one international appearance against Samoa.
Cap: Joe Westerman gets a pass away on his one international appearance against Samoa.

He won Super League’s Young Player of the Year in 2008 – 12 months after Bradford Bulls’ Sam Burgess and the season before Sam Tomkins – and Hull paid a club record fee of around £100,000 for him two years later.

Westerman played more than 100 games for FC before being sold for £150,000 to Warrington Wolves in 2016 where he won a League Leaders Shield and appeared in a Challenge Cup and Grand Final.

After an ill-fated spell with Toronto Wolfpack, he returned to FC in 2018 before joining Trinity ahead of last season.

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A player of his quality should perhaps have earned more than that solitary cap but the Yorkshireman conceded he only has himself to blame.

He started at 13 against Samoa in Brisbane in the opening game of the 2014 Four Nations when Sean O’Loughlin was injured.

“I always remember James Graham saying you’re not really an England player if you just win one or two caps,” said Westerman, referring to the legendary former St Helens prop who was captain against Samoa and retired last year after earning a record 44 caps for his country.

“He said you have to be in there playing every year to be an England player and that really stuck with me. I only got one cap.

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“I didn’t make the most of that opportunity. It was always a tough position as Sean O’Loughlin was playing and he’s probably one of the best loose-forwards to ever pull on an England shirt.

“But I know I didn’t put my best foot forward; I didn’t take it as seriously as I probably should have done and I just expected to play.

“But I can’t go back in the past. If I had chance again, I’d make a lot of changes to how I’d prepare and what I’d do to keep that shirt.

“Everyone wants to play for their country. If I keep playing well it will take care of itself. If it comes, it comes but I know there’s plenty of great players around.”

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With the World Cup this autumn, new coach Wane giving him a second chance remains unlikely; O’Loughlin has retired but Westerman has not been in any of Wane’s squads.

If he opts for a traditional No 13 against the Combined Nations All Stars later this month, St Helens’ uncapped Morgan Knowles is a likely fit, or John Bateman could switch from back-row.

Nevertheless, one thing is certain: if Westerman – expected to rejoin Castleford in 2022 – does get the opportunity, this time he is ready to make the most of it.

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