AFTER news of his new one-year deal with Warrington Wolves was confirmed, veteran forward Ben Westwood spoke to sports reporter Matt Turner about what made him stick around...

MT: Was there a point last year where it clicked that you could do another year?

BW: Me and Steve had a chat after five or six games. We had an agreement that we’d check in after round 23 to see where I was at.

I was feeling alright then, so we had a chat and that’s where it all started. Steve was happy for me to stay on and was pleased with my form.

It was just a matter of getting through the 8s and seeing how I felt, and I felt exactly the same.

The big difference now is the minutes I’m playing. Obviously its not as much as I used to, but it’s really helped. It’s something I had to get used to but it was for the best to prolong my career.

MT: Was it something you had to talk with the family around to, or were they happy for you to carry on?

BW: My wife’s always telling me I’m too old to be playing this game and that it’s time to pack in!

She’s alright with it really. She’s happy to go with what I want to do, and there’s no better job in the world than the one we do.

The chance for me to go round again didn’t take much persuading.

I’ll know when it’s time to stop. Something in my head will tell me I can’t do it anymore and I won’t hang around and make a fool of myself.

Westwood scoring against Widnes on Good Friday. Picture by Mike Boden

MT: It was probably around this time last year that we spoke and you said you were fairly certain 2018 would be your last year – but have you surprised yourself with how much you played and your form?

BW: I honestly didn’t think I would play as many games as I did.

We had some young players coming through and some lads playing a few weeks here and there, I thought it might have been time for them to come through.

I really buckled down in pre-season and had a good crack at it. That really stood me in good stead going into the season.

The first couple of games wasn’t the greatest for me, but I stuck with it and came good in the end.

This year, am I going to be playing as many games as I did last year? My aim is to, but I don’t know.

We’ve signed some really good players and some of the younger players have got that extra year on them, but I’m still ready to fight for a position.

If I get the nod I’ll be ready. If not, there’s always the week after.

MT: I was going to go come onto the guys that have come in – there will be a couple of them with their eyes on your position at loose forward. Will you have to bring something different to fight them off, as it were?

BW: We have to take it by steps. We have a pre-season to get through first.

Funnily enough, I really enjoyed pre-season last year and I felt really good by the end of it. It’s another year on, so we’ll see if I get through it.

I’ve just got to keep fit, do what I do. I’m not going to get any faster or invent a sidestep all of a sudden!

If I’m doing a good job, there’s no reason why I can’t play on. We have signed some good players in my position, so it’s good healthy competition.

Westwood win action during the Super League Grand Final defeat to Wigan. Picture by Dave Gillespie

MT: Your announcement came “suspiciously close” some would say to Jamie Jones-Buchanan’s. You two seem to be part of the world’s longest staring contest in terms of carrying on!

BW: He’s dying to be the oldest player in Super League, isn’t he?

He keeps asking me when I’m going to pack in, and I tell him I’ll go along with whatever he does!

It’s a joke between ourselves. I saw his announcement and I sent him a text congratulating him.

I gave him a little glimmer of hope that I might retire, but I thought I should get the news out there to put him out of his misery!

MT: All things considered, can you honestly rule out playing on beyond 2019 if things go well?

BW: Well the Man of Steel is one thing I haven’t won so let’s have a bash at that!

Like I said before, let’s take it step by step. We’ll probably have the same chats as we had this year then decide what’s going to happen.

I still feel as though I can offer the team something and advise young players coming through.

Will this be my last year? I assume so, but things can change.

MT: You’ve mentioned some of the young players – there’s a few of them training with the first team now. Are they better placed to develop than what you were at their age?

BW: By far! When I came through, I was an apprentice at Wakefield cleaning the stadium and the players’ boots.

One thing we did get though was the chance to train with first-team players every single day and it improved my game overnight it seemed.

They have a privilege now to train with such a high calibre of player. The facilities are there as well, so it’s up to them to go out and grab it with both hands.

There’s five or six who have stepped up to train with us and it will put them in really good stead for the future.

MT: A lot of the chatter from in and around the team is about Eribe Doro and how good he could potentially be. Is he one of the youngsters you’re excited by?

BW: Eribe is a bit of a livewire and a cheeky chappie, which I like. He’s one of those characters that you can’t help but like.

With a full pre-season behind him, if he stays injury-free there’s no reason he can’t have a bright future.

All the best players were cheeky, the likes of Briersey and Sean Long etc.

Danny Brough was the same when we were coming through at Wakefield. We wouldn’t dare speak to any first-teamers but he was the only one that did!

All the best players have that kind of attitude and Eribe’s definitely one of them.

Warrington Wolves forward Eribe Doro, who was 18th man for Saturday's cup tie with Bradford Bulls. Picture: Mike BodenEribe Doro is being tipped for a bright future at The Wire. Picture by Mike Boden

MT: You’ve won a couple of Challenge Cups with The Wire, but the Grand Final is still elusive. If you’re forced to hang them up without winning one, will that nag at you?

BW: Obviously it’s the one thing I’d like to win before I retire, but I won’t be disappointed if we don’t.

I really do believe we have a strong chance this year, but that’s not the reason why I’m carrying on. I’m carrying on because I love the game.

If I retire next year without winning one, I can look back on my career and be super proud of what I’ve achieved.