Joe Westerman is loving life back at Castleford after learning some big lessons along his rugby league journey.
There was so much hype around Westerman when he was coming through the ranks at hometown club Castleford first time around.
He had the ‘wonderkid’ tag attached to him, and that he was going to be England’s number 13 for years to come.
Westerman scored 43 tries and kicked 175 goals in 103 appearances for the Tigers between 2007-10 before Hull paid one of their highest ever transfer fees to secure the services of Westerman.
The 32-year-old went on to win two England caps whilst with Hull.
He would spent 11 seasons away from Castleford before returning to the Jungle, playing for Hull, Warrington, Toronto, Hull again, and Wakefield.
Speaking to Love Rugby League about being back at Cas, Westerman said: “I love it here.
“It is a club I supported as a kid. I used to go to every game, I started there and I always wanted to come back.
“I always felt like I had a bit of unfinished business. And I didn’t really want to leave but I kind of had to. I love playing for them.”
Wonderkid Joe Westerman
But admittedly, Westerman believed all the hype around him as a youngster and didn’t quite push himself as much as he should have done.
The Pontefract-born forward believes signing for Wakefield was a big learning curve for him.
“Talent gets you so far but there needs to be other stuff around you,” Westerman revealed.
“The gym was a big one for me, doing the gym right. I did my left knee a few years back and it was because I wasn’t doing leg weights. I was just going in the gym and coasting.
“Signing at Wakefield was massive for me, I was getting strong and I was enjoying it and straight away my performances started getting better. I felt fitter, I felt stronger.
“I didn’t really take rugby serious enough (when I was younger) and you can’t do that.
“And I had all the hype around me. I was playing well, I didn’t do the gym but I was still playing well. But that only lasts so long.
“It catches up with you and you’ve got to be on top of your game. You’ve got to keep doing the gym, training hard. I wish I’d have known then what I know now because I would’ve changed things a helluva lot.”
England World Cup dream
Westerman hit top form again during his two-year spell with Castleford’s rivals, Wakefield.
The ball-playing loose-forward made his first England appearance in seven years when he played against the Combined Nations All Stars in 2021.
Westerman knows he still has a lot to do to make Shaun Wane’s England squad for the World Cup, but is determined to make his childhood dream come true whilst representing his boyhood club at the same time.
“It is everyone’s dream to play for their country,” Westerman continued.
“You see Shaun Wane on the TV and don’t quite know how to take him but I’ve worked under him now and no wonder he gets them young kids playing for him because he’s a very passionate man and he loves his country.
“I think he’s shown that if you play well, you get picked. He spoke to me and pretty much said that and he’s a truthful man. I don’t know what he thought of me but he picked me and I was grateful for that.
“There are some good players out there, Morgan Knowles is a great player and he’s playing well as well so if I get picked, it is a dream come true and it is what every lad wants to do. That will take care of itself, what I’ve got to do is focus on being consistent.”