SUPER Bennie Westwood launches his Testimonial year thanking Warrington Wolves for believing in him.
At the start of celebrations marking the fans favourite’s 10 years of loyal service, the England back rower reveals there was a point when he thought his career would not pan out at the club.
And he certainly did not believe upon arriving at Wilderspool Stadium with relegation-threatened Wolves from Wakefield in 2002 that he would be the proud owner of three Challenge Cup winners’ medals 10 years later.
But the 31-year-old grafter’s own ambitions continue to grow and he has outlined his remaining goals with the club before he hangs up his boots.
It was during the first season at The Halliwell Jones Stadium that Westwood started to have doubts about whether he was still wanted.
And it turned out to be a pivotal time in his personal progress, a transition from the backs to the forwards which would lead to him becoming one of Wolves’ most capped England players of all time.
“There was a time in 2004 that I thought that’s my time up at Warrington,” he said.
“They’d bought two new centres in Martin Gleeson and Toa Kohe-Love, and I wasn’t getting picked due to being dropped at the back end of the year. So I thought is it time to move on?
“If I had done I might still be playing centre now.”
As it was, coach Paul Cullen – a back who had impressively converted to the pack in his own playing days – saw the same potential in Westwood and the Yorkshireman has never looked back after becoming a first choice back rower with Warrington and the national team.
“I’m grateful for Warrington believing in me and keeping me and for Paul Cullen giving me that chance that I probably needed in 2005,” said Westwood, who now has 282 games under his belt in primrose and blue.
“Moving me into the forwards was a pretty good move by Paul Cullen.
“I was always an aggressive kind of player and I liked that.
“From being out on the wing, maybe shoving me in the middle allowed me to express myself a bit more.
“I enjoy the rough stuff, the tackling and the big hits. Maybe sticking me in the middle was a time when things changed for the better.”
He remains excited about his future, including a Testimonial campaign that starts with a sold-out dinner at the Fir Grove Hotel on Saturday and then next month he will star at a fans’ forum before playing a leading role with current and past teammates in the Parr Hall pantomime Cinderella.
“To be honest, the 10 years have gone so quickly,” he said.
“I didn’t think at the start of my time here that I would stay here but me and my family moved to the town six or seven years ago and we call Warrington our home at the minute and I can’t see us moving in the near future.
“I really enjoy it here and I’m playing all right, too, which helps.”
He is clear on what he still wants to achieve with Wolves.
“I want to win a Grand Final, that’s my main goal,” he said.
“And then a World Club Challenge is the next one.
“We’re getting closer each year and we’ll get there. We’ll be there or thereabouts at the end of 2013.”