FOR Joe Westerman, tomorrow will be a step into a bright, new future but also, at the same time, a nostalgic trip down Memory Lane.
The Hull FC loose forward debuts for England as they open their Four Nations campaign against Samoa in Brisbane.
He will be the only player representing his Super League club but it does not mean the 24 year-old is not among friends.
That is because Westerman will, fittingly, be lining up alongside three of his former Castleford Tigers team-mates, the hometown club where his career first started out.
Current Castleford captain Michael Shenton, Man of Steel Daryl Clark – the Tigers hooker who joins Warrington Wolves for £180,000 when the tournament ends – and Huddersfield Giants vice-skipper Brett Ferres were all colleagues at Wheldon Road at various times.
Each, of course, hails from the town, too, showing just what a hotbed of rugby league it truly is.
“It’s really good news,” said Westerman, who debuted for Castleford in 2007 before making a £100,000 switch to Hull three years later.
“It just shows what the town of Cas has produced and can produce.
“Some good lads have come through over the years and it’s showed today with four of us all in there to play for England on Saturday.
“It’ll be a proud day. I played with Shenny initially plus Brett and saw Daryl coming through the ranks.
“It’ll be good to put the shirt on and play with them again and for England, too. Hopefully I’ll get the job done with those three.”
Westerman has enjoyed a superb season with Hull, despite the club’s disappointing campaign, and forced his way into Steve McNamara’s squad.
He has since earned a surprise start after captain Sean O’Loughlin pulled out of the first game with injury.
“I was over the moon to be be told,” he admitted.
“Leading up to it I said in the press that I was over the moon just being in the 24-man squad firstly and the next step was getting a game and playing bit.
“So, to be picked as starting loose forward is a dream come true. Now I’ve got to go out there and make most of it.”
He is not short of advice if required, either.
O’Loughlin, the inspirational 31-year-old Wigan Warriors captain, has been a room-mate on tour.
And another talisman No13 Sam Burgess – fresh from being crowned RLIF International Player of the Year – presented Westerman, Clark and fellow debutants Josh Hodgson and Matty Smith with their first caps yesterday.
Burgess is nursing a fractured eye socket and cheekbone, sustained in the opening moments of his man-of-the-match performance for South Sydney in this month’s NRL Grand Final, but was already ruled out of England’s Four Nations campaign after signing a three-year contract with Bath.
He will be unveiled by the Aviva Premiership club next week but Westerman admitted the Dewsbury-born forward – the first English winner of the RLIF award – was wishing he was running out with them all in the Suncorp Stadium tomorrow.
“It was a big honour to receive that off Sam,” he said, about the ex-Bradford Bulls star who won the Super League Young Player of the Year in 2007, 12 months prior to Westerman doing the same.
“Growing up I played against him and he was in the national England squad when I was training, too. He’s always someone I’ve admired.
“He’s always been an awesome player but to do what he did in that Grand Final and all the way through his career was amazing. It was a real proud moment for me.
“He gave a lot of advice to us all as a group beforehand and I think everyone took it on.
“It was a a bit emotional for him too. I think he wishes he was out there playing for us but he’s given me a few words and we’ll take that out on Saturday.”
On rooming with Wigan Warriors captain O’Loughlin, Westerman added: “It’s been really good.
“He’s real professional is Lockers.
“He’s a great player and someone I’ve always looked up to. I play lot similar to how he plays as well.
“I get my opportunity this week to do what I can and hopefully I’ll do well enough to get a place next week.”