RUGBY LEAGUE was “put into perspective” when Castleford Tigers forward Lee Jewitt missed the end of last season because of a family crisis.
The 28-year-old took time out from playing to support wife Rebecca and twins Noah and Oliver, who needed intensive care treatment after being born 14 weeks prematurely.
The babies are now at home and Jewitt is in pre-season training, but he admitted the drama has given him a new outlook – and a determination to repay the club, fans and sport for the backing he and his family received.
Tigers supporters regularly chanted Jewitt’s name during matches and players, coaches, staff and officials signed up as blood donors, after the twins received transfusions at just one week old.
“We’ve got a few little problems which we still need to get sorted, but compared to where we were, we’re a lot better,” Jewitt said of his family’s situation.
“It has probably put life into perspective and put this game into perspective, but for me, I can’t wait to get back and replay this club and the fans for the way they’ve supported us.
“The support was fantastic, from the club and rugby league in general.
“I didn’t expect it, I don’t think anyone does expect things like that.
“You kind of just focus on what you are focusing on – everything else that goes on around it I didn’t really expect, at all.
“Me and my wife, we are so grateful – I could say it all day and it still wouldn’t come close to what I think about this game and the fans here at this club.”
Now Jewitt – who missed the early part of last season due to a hip injury and then double-hernia operation – is hoping to make up for lost time on the training field and in action when the season begins in February.
“I had a year out, technically,” he said.
“I think I only played a handful of games, so for me, to get back out there, I can’t wait.
“I really can’t wait to pull on a Cas shirt and get back on and play this game.”
Jewitt is confident Tigers can improve on this year’s fifth-place finish in First Utility Super League.“I think we’ll go well,” he predicted. “We are only two weeks in (to pre-season), but we have knitted together well.
“We have spoken to each other well and we all seem to be on the same page about what we want to achieve.
“That’s bringing trophies back to this club. We all definitely know what the goals are and what we are aiming for – we’ve just got to do it when we’re out there.”
Tigers are now established as genuine contenders for honours, but the next big step is to win something.
“It is okay floating around there, but if you’re not winning anything, it doesn’t really count,” Jewitt said.
“We want to be winning silverware and that means going back to Wembley and Challenge Cup finals and being in the mix for the Grand Final.
“That’s what we want to achieve next year.”
Meanwhile, rising star Mike McMeeken has signed a new contract which will keep him at Castleford Tigers until the end of 2018.
McMeeken joined Tigers from London Broncos a year ago and would have been out of contract at the end of next season.
The 21-year old made 20 appearances for Tigers this year – finishing with 17 successive games – and scored two tries.
“I’m delighted to have signed a new deal at this great club,” he said.
“I’m really looking forward to the new season and playing in front of our awesome fans and pushing for silverware,
“I’m loving every minute here at Cas, this place is my home.”
Tigers coach Daryl Powell said: “Mike proved last year he is a player with huge potential.
“His professionalism is outstanding as are the qualities in his game that we feel will take him to the top of his profession.
“I am delighted he has agreed to extend his contract for two further years to continue his growth as a player.”