Jackson Hastings may be a former Sydney Rooster – but he’s firmly in St Helens’ corner for the Betfred World Club Challenge this weekend.
The reigning Man of Steel played for the Australian side in the National Rugby League for three seasons, making the switch to England first with Salford, before moving to Wigan ahead of the new season.
Fellow Super League side – and current champions – St Helens will be flying the flag for the competition in this weekend’s prestigious Betfred World Club Challenge, duelling it out with reigning NRL title-winners Roosters to seize bragging rights as the planet’s premier rugby league outfit.
And while 24-year-old Hastings may have started his career at the decorated Australian team, he believes England is now his adopted new home.
“It’s a big game – obviously the NRL sides are hotly favoured when they come to play our Super League sides, but if any side is going to do it, I think it’s this St Helens side,” he said.
“Obviously I played for the Roosters and I’m extremely proud of my time there, but I play in the Super League now and St Helens are flying the flag for the whole of England, so I hope they get the job done.
“It’s no fluke what St Helens did last year, and I think they’d compete in the NRL, to be honest, and that’s how good I think they are – it’s going to be a tight game, but I actually think they’re going to do it.
“I think it will be a game that’s going to go down to the wire, but I’m going to say 22-18 to St Helens.”
Saints have enjoyed a promising start to Super League once again this season, winning two of their opening three matches to sit at the summit of the table on points difference.
But their attention turns to other matters this weekend as they welcome the World Club Challenge’s joint-most successful ever side, who have lifted the trophy four times and are now vying to leap ahead of Wigan and clinch the record outright.
Hastings believes that will be a stern task, however, as they prepare to do battle with joint Man of Steel points leader Jonny Lomax – tied on six with Huddersfield Giants’ Aidan Sezer – at the Totally Wicked Stadium on Saturday.
“It’s just the way Johnny plays that I look up to – he makes everything look easy, and the best way to describe him is that he’s just a smooth player,” he added.
“He never looks rushed and he never looks fazed, and the difference between his bad and his good games is very minimal.
“He’s just somebody who I’ve got a lot of respect for and he’s the ultimate professional – he doesn’t just naturally become a good player, and he’s overcome so many injuries and so many obstacles.
“To watch him flourish now is great – I said at the start of this year that I think he’ll win the Man of Steel award, so to see him at the top is no surprise for me, hopefully he keeps that form up and I’m sure he’ll go close.”
The Betfred World Club Challenge is a huge night in Rugby League which sees the Super League Champions, St Helens take on the NRL Champions, Sydney Roosters.
This year’s contest takes place at the Totally Wicked Stadium, St Helens on Saturday 22 February (7:45pm KO).
Secure your seat by visiting https://tickets.