Man of Steel Jackson Hastings is set for an emotional return to Salford when his Wigan team visit the AJ Bell Stadium on Friday night.
Hastings, 24, led the Red Devils to a memorable and historic first ever Super League Grand Final in his only full season with the club, and waved an emotional goodbye at Old Trafford having agreed to join the Warriors for 2020.
In his first game for Wigan at the DW Stadium, Hastings was accompanied by Salford chief Ian Blease’s daughter, complete with full Salford kit, having invited her to join him as mascot for the game.
The former Sydney and Manly half-back will come up against old friends and his old coach in Ian Watson, and admits it will be a strange occasion.
He said: “It’s going to be a weird night. It’s not like I’m just playing in another game, I’m playing against the club that literally gave me everything.
“They took me in. The Red Devils jersey has got a place in my heart that will never leave.
“I’ve still got a soft spot for them. My room mate Joey (Lussick) still plays for them, I go to every home game when I can.
“It’s going to be weird. At the end of the game, win, lose or draw, I’ll walk down to the south stand and give them a clap and the respect they deserve.
“They changed my name for so long and supported me. I’ll forever be in debt to the club.
“I don’t think anything I say to you is actually going to show my gratitude towards the place.
“I know the people high up know how much it means to me, and hopefully I can show that when I go back there.”
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for Hastings after Salford gave him a fresh chance after his NRL career was left in tatters.
He had made nearly 50 appearances for Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea Eagles by the age of 22, but a public fall out with team-mate Daly Cherry-Evans and Trent Barrett, resulted in him being released in the middle of 2018.
In July, he signed a two-year deal with Salford – and then 12 months later, signed a two-year deal with Wigan to join from the start of 2020.
As well as that, Hastings represented Great Britain in their ill-fated tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea at the end of the year.
Speculation continues as to where his future lies beyond 2021, with a return to NRL at some point soon more likely than not.
Hastings added: “Never in a thousand years did I expect it to pan out the way I did.
“I was at the stage in my life where I didn’t really want to play anymore, and I sort of had a lot of things twisted in the media that weren’t exactly true, or had my name dragged through the mud.
“I was the most hated player in the NRL to be honest with you, for a lot of reasons I didn’t even do, so that was hard to cop.
“Coming over here, people obviously had an opinion of me before they met me and I could pretty comfortably say if you asked 90% of people who have met in England, would give a completely different opinion of what people in Australia would say about me.
“That’s something I’m proud of. Obviously being a Great Britain player now and things like that, this country means the world to me really.
“It holds a special place in my heart and my family’s heart, and I’m extremely grateful I’ve got the chance to come here and play the game I love.”