Westwood can kick-start Wolves' final ambitions

Warrington's answer to Jonny Wilkinson may be a recent convert to the kicker's art but is relishing the responsibility, he tells Dave Hadfield

For a man who claims to have had weeks of sleepless nights before his first Wembley final last year, Ben Westwood is taking his extra responsibilities this time in his stride.

The Warrington second-rower, who lines up against Leeds in the Challenge Cup final today, is now expected not only to contribute his usual all-action 80 minutes, but to kick the goals for the Wolves as well.

It's a situation that came about almost by accident. Westwood, who had not kicked a goal since his days in the Academy side at Wakefield, was fourth-choice kicker at best. "Then one match [last month against Castleford] there were a couple out injured and Lee Briers said he didn't fancy it, so I said I'd have a go," he says. "I kicked nine from nine and I've been doing it ever since. I enjoy the extra responsibility."

Westwood has a deceptively casual attitude to this new string to his bow, plonking the ball down and turning his back on it, before striking a pose vaguely reminiscent of a renowned kicker in another code. "But I think Jonny Wilkinson does it for balance," he says. "I do it because I don't know what to do with my hands."

There is more to Westwood than this unexpected knack of putting the ball over the crossbar. In the past two years, he has gone from the sort of player valued by his team-mates to one recognised throughout the game as one of the best in his position. "It's good to be mentioned for awards like the Man of Steel," he says. "If it happens, it happens."

One of Warrington's other candidates for Super League's leading individual award, their captain, Adrian Morley, says Westwood would not look out of place as a winner. "He's been playing great for a good few years now," Morley says. "We've always known how talented he was, but now everybody else knows too."

There is little doubt that Westwood's number one fan is his coach, Tony Smith. In fact, he seems mildly embarrassed at the extent of the praise that routinely comes his way. "My mum usually phones me and tells me what Tony's said," he says. "I like to keep him happy and it's nice to feel appreciated."

What coaches appreciate about Westwood is the sheer intensity of his appetite for the game. "Mind you, he's got the odd mistake in him," says Smith. "He made a couple in the last game, but he puts himself in the match so much it's bound to happen.

"I had the pleasure of coaching Jason Smith and he was a pretty special player, but he made more mistakes than anyone in the team. That was because he was in the game more than anyone else and it's a bit the same with Ben.

"We've got three players here I'd be very happy with as Man of Steel – Adrian Morley, Michael Monaghan and Ben Westwood. They've all shown that sort of consistency."

Although he has played second-row and even prop at Warrington, Westwood started his professional career as a centre at Wakefield. "I wasn't really quick enough or skilful enough and I always liked mixing it with the big lads, so I was always going to finish up in the pack. One week I was on the wing, the next I was in the front row."

Brought up in Normanton, Westwood was a boyhood Castleford fan and has always secretly fancied playing for them, "perhaps when I'm 38. But what it means is that I didn't like Leeds very much."

Maybe not, but that doesn't imply any lack of respect now. "They're a great team and they've done everything except winning the Challenge Cup, whereas we know what it's like to go to Wembley and do that. Last year, I was so nervous that I hardly slept after the semi-final; this year, we know much more what to expect."

Warrington are also stronger on paper for the addition of David Solomona and Ryan Atkins – who would be Westwood's own intriguing choice as Man of Steel, if he was allowed to vote for a team-mate – since last year's victory over Huddersfield. Equally significant is the way that an established player like Westwood has grown in stature, as an international second-rower and match-winning goal-kicker.

And, if he has any sleepless nights now, they are all attributable not to nerves but to his two-week-old daughter, Gracie.

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's Spring/Summer 2015 London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam