It was at the ripe old age of four that Jackson Hastings first set off to follow in his father, Kevin’s, footsteps to become a professional rugby league player, and, he still keeps, back home, a photograph of himself in a Sydney City Roosters’ jersey – sleeping with a rugby ball rather than a teddy bear – to prove it. He was not allowed to play the game until he was eight, however, because his father, knowing the sheer physicality of the game, was concerned about the slightness of Jackson’s build.
Instead therefore, he filled his time, and appetite for sport, by playing football, for which he is now most grateful as he believes it helped him, considerably, to develop his kicking game, when he did eventually take up rugby league.
Although he never had the opportunity to witness his father playing, the fact that Kevin was such an integral part, as half back, of the Roosters, it is hardly surprising that Jackson grew up watching their renowned Championship winning side of 2002, and their Grand Final winning team of 2003 and 2004, containing, of course, Salford born and future Red Devils’ captain, Adrian Morley.
Most remarkably, the junior team which he joined was another Red Devils side – Wests Illawarra Red Devils – which proved to be an extremely successful move for him with his age group winning eleven competitions in a row, and he stayed with them for a full ten seasons, right through to the age of eighteen. Being a goal kicker, he had a head start when it came to his being awarded the year’s Leading Points Scorer Award, alongside twice being recognised as Man of the Match, in Grand Finals.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to have played in some really good teams, throughout my career, but there have been one or two lean years when we have struggled, and those make you realise that it isn’t as easy as you could start to believe it was.”
At the age of sixteen, he was offered a full-time contract with his childhood idols, Sydney City Roosters, which, as will be appreciated, was a massive step up into the professional environment, but, most impressively, by the age of eighteen he was making a winning NRL debut against South Sydney, in the final game of the season.
“We had to win that game to win the Minor Premiership. I came off the bench and played hooker, to face the likes of Greg Inglis, Sam Burgess, and Isaac Luke. It is something I shall never forget. I was also fortunate enough to win the same trophy in my final year with them, too.”
Sydney Roosters, as they are now named, rather like Super League’s own Wigan Warriors, has a special aura about them which singles them out from the remainder of the pack. Having been part of that environment, Jackson puts this down to the fact that they were one of the original clubs formed, with a considerable amount of history behind them including the winning of sixteen cups, being financially well off which means they can attract top class players, and consequently always fighting to win Premierships.
Four, highly successful seasons with the Roosters came to an end, at the age of twenty-one with a move across to Manly, in 2016, before coming half way round the globe to join us here at the A J Bell. Having enjoyed the luxuries afforded by clubs in the NRL, Jackson is completely open in his assessment of Salford, the club with whom his allegiance now lies.
“Comparing Salford with a team like the Roosters, with all their financial power and clout, would be difficult, but in comparison with Manly it would be more than favourable, and the fans especially are absolutely great, here.”
He was, from the very outset, fully aware of the importance to the Red Devils of the seven fixtures which make up the end of season competition known as the Qualifiers, but was never even remotely daunted about it.
“I always want to win every game I take part in; it doesn’t matter whether it’s for promotion, to avoid relegation, to win a trophy, or just a run-of-the-mill league game, I always want to win. I grew up having to win every single game of whatever. Be it out on the field or on the play-station, I have to win. I just have that mentality of ‘win at all costs’ so to me it was just so much water off a duck’s back being involved in the Qualifiers.
“I keow it really meant a lot in the grand scheme of things, but as far as getting up for it was concerned, I can get up for a game of ping pong. I am just wanting to win every single match that comes along.
“Unfortunately, I missed two games which were extremely hard to watch, though I was super impressed with how the boys played and conducted themselves. By the time the Toulouse game came along I was jumping out of my skin to be back in the side and aiming to finish the season on a high note, which we did.
“I would like to thank the fans, teammates and club for the great nine weeks.”