Jackson Hastings isn’t sure if he believes in fairy tales but knows that a Salford Red Devils victory in Saturday’s Betfred Super League Grand Final would be the envy of any Hollywood movie.
In one of the most improbable stories in rugby league history Salford, one of the favourites for relegation after just surviving on the final day last year, have gone on the ultimate underdog journey to reach their maiden Grand Final at Old Trafford.
Their route to the play-offs included an eight-game winning run before a sensational triumph over Wigan Warriors in semi-final two on Friday, leaving Hastings daring to dream of a perfect payoff for all involved with the club following their dark days.
“I don’t know if I believe in fairy tales just yet until Saturday night but it would be a fairy-tale if Salford beat St Helens,” said Hastings, speaking at the Betfred Super League Awards.
“I’d die a happy man if we won, knowing all the hardship the club has been through, the fans have been through and what I’ve had to endure, to culminate in a Grand Final win would be truly special and hopefully dreams come true.
“I’m going to soak the day up. A kid from Australia, I never thought I’d get to see Manchester United play let alone grace the field that some of the greatest football players of all time graced.
“Regardless of the score we’re going to go in there and give it a good crack and then celebrate after because this town, this club deserves it and it’s been a very long year.
“Hopefully we’ll finish at the top but if not we can walk away with our chests held high because we’ve put Salford back on the map.”
Salford’s battle against the odds has mirrored Hastings’ own fight against adversity.
The 23-year-old Australian almost brought his career to an abrupt end after being discarded by Sydney Roosters and then released by Manly Sea Eagles following an off-field incident with teammate Daly Cherry-Evans.
After being left at a standstill, Hastings arrived in England in 2018 aiming to rebuild his life with Salford but surely even he couldn’t have expected how quickly his fortunes would turnaround.
Indeed, the half-back’s emotional story was capped on Sunday night when he received the Steve Prescott MBE Man of Steel award, becoming the first Salford player ever to win the honour.
Despite being set to move to Wigan next season, Hastings has made sure that Salford will always have something to remember him by as he prepares for one final momentous occasion in an unforgettable campaign.
After also winning the Fans’ Entertainer Award, he added: “It’s crazy. I feel numb and very grateful, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to win an award like this, it’s taken a lot of hard work, some dark days and some good days to be able to get here.
“I’d never even heard of Salford before I came here but I dove in head first and wanted to learn about the history.
“To know we’ve gone on the same sort of path, it hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows, is rewarding.
“The trophy is going to stay at the club because it doesn’t just represent me, it’s represents the people that have supported me. Without Salford, I definitely wouldn’t be holding this trophy up.
“To know that if you put your mind to something you can do it is great, at the start obviously I couldn’t see that because I was in such a dark place.
“I had to really look hard at myself in the mirror and figure myself out and I’ve done that and been able to come through 360 and win the award.
“I never would have imagined coming to England as a kid and not in that circumstance too, I made the most of a bad situation and turned it into a great situation.”
The Betfred Super League Grand Final is the biggest night in Super League and takes place at Old Trafford, the iconic home of Manchester United on Saturday 12 October (6pm KO). Secure your seat by visiting https://www.superleague.co.uk/tickets/grand-final