Wests Tigers star Jackson Hastings says he wouldn’t be where he is today without his beloved Salford, who he will be forever grateful for.
The 26-year-old is back in the NRL with the Tigers after being a fan’s favourite in the Super League for four seasons with Salford and Wigan.
After a couple of fall outs in the NRL with Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea Eagles, Hastings was handed a lifeline in England with Salford.
And it’s safe to say he hasn’t looked back since. He knuckled down and let his rugby do the talking whilst becoming a role model off the pitch.
Hastings helped steer the Red Devils clear of relegation via the Middle 8s in 2018. And then he decided to repay the club’s loyalty by extending his contract for the following season.
Salford were one of the favourites for relegation from Super League in 2019. Instead, Hastings led the Red Devils to the Grand Final at Old Trafford, where they lost to St Helens.
Speaking on Sunday Night with Matty Johns, Hastings said: “I had a chance to go to Huddersfield with Simon Woolford at the start. They wouldn’t just give me one-year with a player option to come home if something happened and then Salford came knocking.
“Ian Blease and Ian Watson got on the phone to me straight away and the eight weeks was all I went over there for at the start.
“They gave me the eight weeks with a player option at the end. After the eight weeks, the people at the club treated me like a rockstar and I couldn’t turn my back on them.
“I chose to stay there for another year in 2019. We went from favourites to go down and we went on to make the Grand Final against St Helens and got to play at Old Trafford in front of 85,000 people.
“I went from playing for Blacktown Workers in front of 12 people on a Sunday to 85,000 at the Theatre of Dreams so it was pretty special.
“I’m very grateful for my time there”
“I’d probably never felt that (sort of love) before in my life. It didn’t matter it was in the Under-15s at West Wollongong or being 18 playing for the Roosters. I never got a reception from anyone, it was always ‘look at this pr*ck running around’. I’ve literally had dads trying to call me out when I was 14 behind the sheds.
“I didn’t really fit in anywhere growing up so to go over there and literally be loved straight away was something that I’d never felt before. That’s what attracted me to stay.
“I’ve got a good, loyal connection to the club. I love seeing them doing well and getting up early to watch them play.
“Without Ian Blease, Ian Watson and the playing group at Salford, I’d probably be in a pretty sh*t place. I’m very grateful for my time there.”
Jackson Hastings wins 2019 Man of Steel award
In the same season they reached the Grand Final for the first time in the club’s history, Hastings was named the Steve Prescott Man of Steel for being the best player in Super League that season.
On winning the Man of Steel award, Hastings said: “I remember I didn’t really know what the Man of Steel was at the start of the year. I didn’t really understand the concept. It wasn’t until after that they told us it was like the Dally M.
“I remember the first four weeks I didn’t get a point and other blokes in my team were getting points. Then we went on a run of 12 games and it (my tally) was going up every week.
“When we went to the last eight weeks the voting went quiet. It was me and Blake Austin who were neck and neck. I think he was out for six weeks and I know people don’t say things like this but when I knew Blake was out I knew I had a good chance to win it.
“(Afterwards) Mum had told me Super League had rang them six weeks before the semi-finals so she nearly gave it away! It was something I will look back on when I’m retired and be very proud of.”
Great Britain honours
Everything seemed to turn to gold for Hastings in the 2019 season. The honours didn’t stop there. Although born and raised in Australia, Hastings is of English heritage through his grandmother. He was called up to represent Great Britain on their tour of the southern hemisphere. Hastings won four caps for the Lions.
After a spectacular year in 2019, Hastings made the move to Super League giants Wigan.
Like at Salford, Hastings quickly became a fan’s favourite at the Warriors. He helped the Warriors clinch the League Leaders’ Shield in 2020. Hastings helped them reach the Grand Final, where he unfortunately fell short to champions Saints.
Hastings made his return to the NRL in the off-season after signing a two-year deal with Wests Tigers.