WHEN a player has been at a club for as long as Ben Westwood has, it can be easy to keep extending their time at the club out of sentiment alone.

In a lot of cases when that happens, careers tend to drag on too long and legacies can get tainted.

However, ‘Super’ Bennie’s new deal to take him into his 18th season with The Wire does not have that air about it.

I do not think I would be too far wrong in saying most Wire fans expected 2018 to be the final year of Westwood’s illustrious playing career. I am also fairly certain Westwood thought that himself.

However, nobody expected the old stager to perform how he did this season.

Like a few others within this Wire squad, he appeared a player reborn under the tutelage of Steve Price. At times, he was playing like a 26-year-old rather than a 36-year-old.

He set himself a target of playing as many games as he could – he finished the campaign with 31 appearances.

Save for a niggling ankle problem during the Super 8s, Westwood also stayed largely injury free. Another tick in the box.

Then came the big one, the first thing he said when I asked him what he wanted to achieve in 2018 – go a whole year without picking up a suspension.

Two separate lengthy bans – plus a broken hand – hampered his 2017 campaign, but this year proved vastly different.

Apart from a couple of warnings, Westwood’s name was largely absent from the disciplinary charts. He achieved his goal of going a full season without sitting out a game due to his own indiscretions.

When you add all of these things together, it is difficult to make a case for saying him being awarded a new deal was for sentimental reasons.

He really earned it and for that, he deserves all the credit he has been given.

However, now the real test comes as Price starts to assemble something more like a squad of his own.

With plenty of new faces arriving in the pack, where does Westwood fit in?

He played predominantly at loose forward this year, but you would imagine new signing Jason Clark would fill that starting role when 2019 comes around.

With fellow new additions Matt Davis and Lama Tasi also providing competition, and with Ben Currie returning from injury, he faces several stiff challenges for his position.

He may not find himself playing as many games as he did last year, but if one thing is for certain, it is that the man known as SBW will not give up his shirt without a fight.