Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
By the time 2018 rolled around Jackson Hastings was a semi-regular NRL player who was looking to cement his spot in the league.
After signing with Sydney Roosters as a teenager in 2013, Hastings would go on to play 34 NRL games for the tri-colours before moving on to Manly in 2017.
Nobody doubted Hastings’ ability or his potential but when reports of a falling out with Sea Eagles captain Daly Cherry-Evans and coach Trent Barrett emerged while he was at the club his attitude was called into question.
This dispute would result in Hastings being dropped to Manly’s New South Wales Cup side the Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles and eventually saw him released from the remainder of his contract.
With nowhere else to go, Hastings turned to Super League club the Salford Red Devils who were amid a relegation scrap.
He signed a two-year deal with the British side and got to work on saving their top-flight status, leading the Red Devils to victory in five out of their seven Super Eights qualifying fixtures which was enough to keep them in Super League.
The 26-year-old was not content with just saving his side from a spot in the Championship though as in 2019 Hastings would win the Man of Steel award and do the unthinkable by leading Salford to the Super League Grand Final where they would lose to St Helens.
By this point Hastings’ was well and truly reaching his potential as he then moved to Wigan in 2020 and once again made the Grand Final.
In April 2021, the Wests Tigers announced that they had signed Hastings on a two-year deal commencing in 2022 confirming that he would return to the NRL.
Following the Tigers’ winless start to the season after five rounds, Hastings returned to the side after being suspended since round two and has led the club to their first two wins of the season and kicked the match-winning field goal against the Parramatta Eels in round six.
He has undeniably developed his game and matured as a person since his first stint in the NRL.
For many a year, NRL players would only consider a move to Super League if left without another club to go to or if they were coming towards the end of their career but Jackson Hastings’ story has had such an impact that a move to England’s top flight is becoming a real option for more NRL talent than just ageing veterans.
Since Hastings began having success in Super League, we have seen many an NRL young gun decide to grow their game over in the UK and take advantage of the increased game time.
Take Jai Field, who is currently at the top of the 2022 Man of Steel leaderboard for example.
He was on the cusp of breaking into first grade consistently at both the Dragons and Eels so instead of either re-signing with Parramatta or joining another NRL team where he would find it hard to make his mark, Field backed himself and signed with Wigan.
Following an injury-plagued first season at the Warriors in 2021, Field has dominated Super League in 2022 and is one of the league’s best players that multiple NRL clubs must be taking a look at.
We have also seen former players and members of the media suggest a move to Super League as an option for out of form and young players that are looking to up their game since Hastings’ success in the competition.