Former Man of Steel Jackson Hastings says he always had the ambition to represent his English heritage before he made the move to Super League.
The 27-year-old half-back was born and raised in Australia but is of English heritage through his grandmother, who hailed from Plymouth.
Hastings made his international debut for Great Britain in 2019. He received a call-up to the Lions squad by then head coach Wayne Bennett.
The former Salford and Wigan star has admitted he always wanted to play for England to represent his family rather than Australia, the nation of his birth.
Speaking on James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast, Jackson Hastings said: “I was going to play for the England Knights when I was still in Australia. Not a lot of people know that.
“I was going to give up my eligibility prior to going to England. My nan was still around at this point.
“I know a lot of people, especially proud Englishmen, I know from talking to people over there, they don’t like the fact a couple of us Australia-born people had represented Great Britain and obviously England. But mine went a lot deeper than just waking up one day going ‘you know what, Origin might be too hard and Australia might be too hard, let me try my luck for England’. There’s too many good players for a random person to walk into an English side.
“There’s so many good players and they proved that this year at the World Cup. It was hard watching them lose because I feel like they had such a great tournament. I thought it was their time on home soil but unfortunately they fell short.
“For me, it was deeper than that. It was about representing people who loved where they are from”
“My nan was so proud that she was English, it was unbelievable. She was so patriotic. She cared about the country so much and came here (to Australia) for reasons unknown but she just loved England. Everything she did was about the Queen and as a child I got brought up on that. She had all these spoons about the royal family and everywhere I looked it was England, England, England.
“We had a conversation as a family one day about what I wanted to do. I was going to play for the England Knights but it just didn’t eventuate. I was in Australia and they were flying to PNG. The link up was going to be too hard so I left it.
“When I went to England I played against Leeds Rhinos; and Kev Sinfield had a bit to do with England at the time. I said to him that if the chance ever came up then I’d be doing this for the right reasons.
“And I said to him I don’t want you to consider me if you do don’t think I deserve to play for England or if you thought I was doing it for the wrong reasons.
“I had many discussions with Kev, he is someone I respect greatly within the game. If you spoke to him, I’d pretty confident he would agree I was doing it for the right reasons. I cared about my decision. I knew what it would entail and what I was giving up to do it. But I didn’t hesitate in doing it.”
Crying after receiving Great Britain call-up
Hastings took the Super League by storm when he moved to Salford in 2018. He helped the Red Devils reach the Grand Final in 2019, scooping the Steve Prescott Man of Steel award in the same season.
His phenomenal year didn’t stop there though. The Wollongong-born playmaker then received a phone call from Jamie Peacock to say he had been selected on Great Britain’s tour of the southern hemisphere.
Jackson Hastings told James Graham’s The Bye Round Podcast: “I was obviously lucky enough to play in a Grand Final for Salford, won Man of Steel which is one of the pinnacles of what you can do as a rugby league player; and then to get the phone call after we just lost the Grand Final to Saints from Jamie Peacock to say I’d been selected – I cried.
“I felt numb because my nan wasn’t around to see it. I was disappointed that she wasn’t around to see it. She would’ve been the first person on the flight to New Zealand to watch us play.
“My mum was in tears because she knew how much it would have meant to nan and the rest of the family. To put that shirt on and the history of Great Britain Lions, not many people in Australia would understand.
“When we got into camp I got to find out more about where my family was from; and then learn how proud Englishmen are of who they are and what they stand for.”
Jackson Hastings: I’d do it all over again tomorrow
He added: “The way you (James Graham) represented England on all those occasions and how proud you are to represent Great Britain made me feel like I was doing it for the right reasons also.
“I was so grateful we were able to be a part of that. We didn’t perform anywhere near where we should have but we had a group that was proud to be there.
“When you look back on it, it’s not only disappointing that we didn’t win; but we didn’t find the style which suited the players we had which was unfortunate.
“I had a great six weeks. I’ve got memories to last a lifetime and I’d do it all over again tomorrow.”
Jackson Hastings: Salford move changed my life and saved my career
Hastings says his move to Salford changed his life and saved his professional rugby league career.
He said on the podcast: “When I got to Salford I didn’t even know where Salford was.
“I’d been to England once before. We’d played St Helens in the World Club Challenge but I’d never been in and around Manchester and I didn’t know Yorkshire, Lancashire or anything like that.
“I got off the plane, walked into the club, went home, no TV, nothing in the fridge, I’m living in this big house in Worsley on my own. Luckily a week later Joey Lussick came over but the club were just so good for me.
“Ian Blease, the CEO, and Ian Watson, the coach, built a system around what I was good at and just made me feel like I was invincible.
“Every time we went to training Watto would just fill with me so much confidence and every team we played a game he told me I was the best player on the field – whether that’s true or not is irrelevant – the fact he made me feel like that made my game go to another level.
“We lost the final which was heartbreaking but we lost to a fair side in St Helens. The fairytale had to end at some point and it ended at Old Trafford so it was an unbelievable run.
“I’m so grateful for my time at that club. They changed my life and saved my career at the same time. It’s incredible what they did for me.”