Keighley Cougars’ promotion winner Jake Webster is enjoying his testimonial year.
And as the former New Zealand international looks forward to three big events in as many months – a ladies’ night, memorabilia fair and dinner – he and his committee are also putting the finishing touches to what could be an extra-special celebration match.
It will be against Castleford Tigers, the club where the popular second rower spent six years and featured in both a Challenge Cup Final and a Grand Final, at the Mend-A-Hose Jungle during the build-up to next season, with the exact details yet to be confirmed.
And with Webster, who also played for Melbourne Storm, Gold Coast Titans, Hull KR and Bradford Bulls before moving to Keighley in 2020, preparing to transition into a new role on the backroom staff as the Cougars prepare for life back in the Championship after sealing League One title success, it could even be his last appearance.
“I’m certainly still willing, and hopefully the mind is sharp, but I’ll be 39 by the start of next season, and the body is showing a few signs of wear and tear,” explained the father of two, who lives with partner Misha and their sons Leo (four) and Luca (18 months) in Widnes.
“The plan is to step back from playing and concentrate on helping (head of rugby) Andrew Henderson and (coach) Rhys Lovegrove by passing on some of my experience to the other players, and working in the community, where we have forged some really strong links, and it’s a case of extending something I’ve already been doing for a while.
“I’ll continue training and try to keep myself as fit as possible, but in terms of lacing up the boots and going out onto the pitch, there will be a framed jersey on the wall saying ‘only break the glass in an emergency’.”
If, as expected, Webster’s 20th season of first-grade rugby turns out to be his last, he’ll certainly have gone out on a high.
“It’s been a great year for us, it’s fantastic to have been a part of it, and all credit to the owners (Ryan O’Neill, Kaue Garcia, Mick O’Neill and Mike Smith) for the way they have come and turned the club around after some tough times,” continued Australian-born Webster, who qualified for New Zealand through his Māori father.
“I know Mick and Mike have had a huge impact here in the past with Cougarmania, because before moving from Bradford, I did my homework on the club and read all about the impact they had in the early nineties, how close they got to taking the Cougars to Super League and how disappointed they were that they didn’t get there.
“These are different times, and it’s no good trying to turn the clock back, but the club is on another exciting path, and having built things up over the last two or three years, we’re now aiming to consolidate our place in the Championship and become as competitive as we can.
“We’ve got a great set-up, with Hendo bridging the gap between the owners and the rugby side of things, and providing support for Rhys, who I knew well from our time together at Hull KR, and a squad which mixes talent and experience,
“We’re not going into the Championship with crazy talk, we know it’s a step up and it will take time to adjust, but we want to carry on the progression, and I want to play a part in that.”
The ladies’ night (£20 per head) takes place on Saturday, September 17 (7.30pm start) in the Cougar Park executive suite, which also hosts the memorabilia fair on Saturday, October 1 (1pm start, admission free).
The dinner is at the Cedar Court Hotel, Bradford on Friday, November 25 (7pm start, £40 per head, £350 for a table of ten).
For further details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07980 893003.
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