HE has been written off numerous times and even his wife believes he should be thinking about calling it a day, but, at 34, Castleford Tigers’ New Zealand centre Jake Webster believes he is at his peak.
Webster played 91 times for Hull KR from 2008-2012 before joining Tigers. A knee injury against his former club the following season threatened to end his career and though he battled back to full fitness, there were occasions in 2015 when his future at Castleford hung in the balance.
We have got to take something out of last year. How the season panned out was fantastic for us, but it is going be to a lot tougher this year.Castleford Tigers’ Jake Webster
But since then, rather than slowing down, Webster has got better year on year and he was one of Tigers’ strongest and most consistent performers last season when they finished top of Super League for the first time.
He signed a contract extension last May and, two days ahead of Castleford’s first game of the new campaign, away to St Helens, insists hanging up his boots is the last thing on his mind.
“I love it,” he said of his time at Castleford. “Cas have brought the love of rugby league back for me.
“I am getting old and everyone thinks it’ll be time to retire soon, but I can’t see the end.
“My wife is telling me ‘this is your last year’, but she’s been saying it for the last two.
“If she says it for another two or three I’ll be happy. As long as the coach is happy and my body stays healthy, I’ll be happy to stay.”
Webster has unfinished business with Tigers, having played in last year’s Grand Final defeat by Leeds Rhinos.
The path to putting that right begins on Friday and Webster says the disappointment of almost four months ago has only strengthened the group’s resolve.
“We have got to take something out of last year,” Webster stressed. “How the season panned out was fantastic for us, but it is going be to a lot tougher this year.
“We’ve trained for it and hopefully we can start the season like we did last year. It was a great season; everyone keeps saying you were one step short of a fantastic season, but it was still very special to do the things we did.
“We won the league by 10 points, but that was last year and it’s a new year starting on Friday for us. We want to make sure we weren’t just there for one year, we want to continue for the next few years.”
He added: “There’s a fire burning in everyone. To go out the way we did is not the way we were through the whole year. We saved our worst performance until last. Not taking anything away from Leeds, they played the conditions fantastic, they played us great and they deserved to win that day, but we knew we weren’t to our high standards and that’s going to burn deep inside for many months until hopefully we can rectify it.”
Tigers prop Mitch Clark – signed in the off-season from Hull KR on a two-year deal – has joined Featherstone Rovers on a month’s loan.
Clark said: “I feel this is a good opportunity for me at this moment in time. I have had a good pre-season with Castleford and I am pleased to be joining a top-four Championship club, one which is heading in the right direction.
“It will be a great opportunity for me to get some game-time, at a good level and I will be bringing plenty of energy to the team.”
Tigers coach Daryl Powell said: “Mitch is a player who is working hard within our system and improving all the time and it will be great to see him play in the tough competition the Championship is.”