HKR Super League heroes no 16 – Jake Webster
Centre Jake Webster was born in Melbourne in October 1983. He qualified for New Zealand through his Māori father. Webster started his rugby career at just eight years old after moving to Brisbane. In 2000 he earned a place with Melbourne Storm feeder side Norths Devils, and was offered a Storm contract in 2001. In 2003, he became the first Melbourne-born player to play with the Melbourne Storm.
After playing in 49 games for the Storm, in which he scored 28 tries, Webster signed to become a member of the inaugural Gold Coast Titans side in 2007. Released by the Titans at the end of that year, Webster, who by then had earned eight New Zealand caps, signed for Hull Kingston Rovers on a three-year contract.
Webster made his Super League début in Rovers 20-12 defeat at Headingley in February 2008. One of nine new signings who made their debuts that night, it was Webster who caught the eye with some strong running, capped by two tries, one a brilliant individual effort. He also kicked a goal, filling in for the temporarily absent Paul Cooke in that capacity in his first few games. Webster played in all but four games in that season, and earned popularity with the fans for his strong-running displays. He followed up in similar vein in 2009 and in his first two seasons with the Robins he played in 53 games, scoring 22 tries.
In 2010, Webster was injured against Catalan at the beginning of June and missed the rest of the season. Fully fit again in 2011, he played a full season, renewing his familiar centre partnership with Kris Welham. 2012 was to prove Webster’s last with the Robins, further injuries restricting him to just 13 appearances, the last of which was in the final home game of the season. That day, Rovers gave league leaders Wigan a real fright, at one stage in the second half holding a 20-point lead, before losing 43-36. Webster seized on a loose ball four minutes before the interval to score a try that, with Dobson’s conversion, gave the Robins a 26-0 lead.
In all, Jake Webster made 105 appearances for Rovers, mainly at centre, in which he scored 41 tries. He was a strong runner with impressive upper-body strength and was a solid tackler. If at times he seemed rather injury prone, it was characteristic of him that most times after being treated for injury on the field, he was able to play on to the end of the game. He was well-liked by supporters, who appreciated his whole-hearted approach.
After leaving Rovers he went to play with Castleford Tigers in 2013, where he missed nearly a full year with injury, returning in 2014 to help Webster helped Castleford reach their first Challenge Cup Final since 1992. He became a key player in the Castleford squad, and played in that year’s final defeat by the Leeds at Wembley. Webster scored four tries against Wakefield Trinity in August 2017 to help seal Castleford’s league leaders trophy – their first ever top-flight league title – and played in the Grand Final in the same season. In 2018, Webster left Castleford, where he had been a favourite of the supporters, moving on to Bradford and then Keighley, for whom he signed a two-year deal at the age of 35.
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