Jackson Hastings, Wests Tigers, Michael Maguire, Madge, Super League, field goal

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Matty Johns believes Jackson Hastings has proven playmakers and particularly halfbacks need time in the saddle to evolve their skills after he lead the Tigers to an upset win over the Eels.

Hastings burst onto the NRL scene with a debut for the Roosters as an 18-year-old in 2014, but spent the last four years in the Super League before returning to the Tigers in 2022.

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Speaking on The Matty Johns podcast, Johns believes it was Hastings’ consistent run of games in the Super League that allowed him to hone his craft and mature into well-rounded halfback.

“I was really impressed with Jackson Hastings in the lead-up to the game,” Johns said on The Matty Johns podcast.

“How confidently he spoke talking about what he was going to do for Luke Brooks. alleviates some pressure.

“I think what yesterday showed and you know this more than anyone Coop (Cooper Cronk), is being able to manage a game and run a team needs miles on the clock.

“You just can’t put a young guy in and he is able to do it.

“Jackson going away to England and particularly with a struggling club like Salford and having great success there where he goes into a side and it is all about him.

“He has got to play really well for them to win. And because it is a struggling club I would imagine that they didn’t have many comfortable victories.

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“So he has been over their in the furnace playing in the games where in the big moments and there would have been a lot of them, he has to come up with the big plays, the close games and you see yesterday it put him in goodstead.

“I just like the way at times there were periods when they started to play a little frenetic the Tigers and he would just tickle the brakes and slow the tempo of the game. It was really good.”

Cooper Cronk agreed with Johns and believes Hastings also has the potential to bring out the best in Luke Brooks’ game by giving him more time and space to make playmaking decisions.

“He had a nice touch for the try with the kick,” Cronk said on The Matty Johns podcast.

“That is elite skill to be able to kick on the run and drop it over to the winger.

“He managed the game in terms of his decision making.

“The one thing that should give a lot of hope to Tigers fans is by him playing in the No.7 jersey and being that first receiver, what he did really well for Luke Brooks is he condensed those three defenders off the ruck and gift Luke Brooks an extra second and a half to make a decision.

“I don’t think anyone has ever questioned the ability of Luke Brooks. It was just his decision making and execution.

“With that extra two seconds he was given he came up with some big plays that set up the Tigers win.

“I’m not sure what Madge is thinking moving forward, but that Jackson Hastings first receiver condensing the middle and providing space for Luke Brooks to be creative off the back of it worked really well.”

Jackson Hastings celebrates the win over the Eels.Source: Getty Images

Tigers coach Michael Maguire echoed Johns’ sentiments on Hastings’ maturity in his post match comments on his star playmaker.

The usually cool, calm and collected Hastings revealed the moment that almost brought him to tears after slotting a field goal to defeat the Eels on Easter Monday.

Maguire’s reaction to the final play reflected his pride for his squad and Hastings.

“Yeh he’s had a fair journey, Jacko,” Maguire said in the post-game press conference.

“He’s really I guess matured and as a player, everyone knows his stories and those different things but to be able to come up to the big moments like that and be able to achieve what he did was nice for him.

“He’s obviously been through a bit, but those are the things that you want your players to stand up and take it and he did that for us today.

“To just see the players out on the field together that’s the special part so we’ve got to take the confidence off the back of that.”

The 26-year-old half has been through an attitude change which saw him on the outer of previous clubs, the Roosters and the Sea Eagles.

Labeled as a superstar during his junior days, Hastings made his NRL debut at 18 for the Roosters playing 34 games over three seasons.

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An emotional Jackson Hastings after the Tigers’ thrilling victory.Source: Getty Images

After his stint with the Roosters he signed a two-year deal with the Manly Sea Eagles where his ego and poor attitude were reportedly highlighted through off-field drama.

Reports of a falling out and scuffle with captain Daly Cherry-Evans along with poor discipline saw him dropped to feeder club the Blacktown Workers, which eventually saw his release midway through the 2018 season.

Hastings then packed his bags and joined the Salford Red Devils in the Super League where he transformed his approach to the game.

During his two seasons with Salford, Hastings tasted success quickly. It took the Red Devils to a grand final in 2019 where they were defeated by St Helens 23-6.

In the same year he was awarded with the competition’s most prestigious award the Man of Steel and was admitted into the Great Britain side that toured the Southern Hemisphere, picking up four caps during the tour.

Following his time at Salford, Hastings went on to sign with the Wigan Warriors. Within his first season with Wigan, the former Rooster took his side to another grand final. However, unfortunately St Helens went on to win 8-4 in the dying moments.

His time in England became a turning point in his career. For the first time in his rugby league journey Hastings felt that sense of belonging he never felt.

Jackson Hastings finally feels accepted in rugby league.Source: Getty Images

“It felt different, I probably never felt that in my life really,” Hastings said on Sunday Night with Matty Johns

“It didn’t matter if it was under 15s for West Wollongong or being an 18-year-old playing for the Roosters, I never really got a reception off anyone.

“It was always, ‘look at this p***k running around’. I’ve literally had dad’s try and call me out when I was 14 behind the sheds.

“It was just a weird sort of vibe for me growing up. I didn’t really belong or fit in anywhere so to go over there and to literally be loved straight away and to be taken in was something that I never felt before.

“It’s what attracted me to stay and that’s why I still have a good loyal connection to the club not only when I was there, but now I love seeing them do well and love getting up and watching them play.

“Without Ian Blease the CEO, the coach Ian Watson and the playing group we had at Salford. I’d probably be in a shit place so I’m very grateful for my time there.”

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Hastings tackled by teammates after defeating the Eels with a last minute field goal. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

The start of 2021 saw Hastings set his sights back to the NRL, however as a new and improved player on and off the paddock.

The Great Britain representative revealed Madge’s philosophy and belief was a major factor in him joining the Tigers.

“Madge really sold his direction and it was his drive, passion and enthusiasm for the club that really made me want to come,” Hastings told Johns.

“He’s probably the single most hard working and dedicated bloke I’ve met. He’ll never ever call a player out or put a player on show whether it’s in the media or in the meeting room.

“He’ll take you one-on-one and address you like a man and he’s the first person to put his hand up if he makes a mistake.

“He’ll always wear his heart on his sleeve and put himself in the firing line. He doesn’t care what people write about him as long as he protects his players. He gives us all the tools throughout the week to become better players and men.

“It’s up to us as players to deliver on the weekends to take that pressure off him, but yeah Madge is certainly the reason I’m at the Tigers.

Jackson Hastings shares a moment with Mitchell Moses.Source: Getty Images

“I’ve really enjoyed working under him so far. He’s not only a great character but he’s an inspirational sort of man when he talks.”

Fresh off the win against the Eels, Hastings spoke to Triple M on Tuesday morning speaking about his journey thus far.

“I have crammed a lot into 26 … years, I have lived about three different lives. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, with ups and downs,” he told Triple M.

“Over the last four years I have just completely mellowed out a bit. I still have a burning desire to be a great footy player and I still play with emotion and my heart on my sleeve.

But at training and when I am around my teammates I am just a lot calmer in myself and a way better person to be around. I can sense it within myself.

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“I can feel people gravitating towards me, whereas in the past it was the complete opposite way.

“It took me to step back out of it and watch from afar, and be forgotten about almost, to come back and be embraced and enjoy my footy again and I’m loving battling for the boys around me and for the fans, and obviously , my coach.

“I have an unbelievable connection to Madge and [he is] someone who empowers me to be myself and encourages me to be Jackson Hastings and not anything else.

“I have mellowed out and appreciate little things in life and am grateful for where I am at. The old me took [it] in my stride and thought it was just normal to be where we are but we are pretty lucky to be doing what we’re doing.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Madge is a huge driving factor behind me becoming a way better version of myself and a way better player.

“He just instils a calm but fierce belief in his players and he has definitely done a lot for me and introduced me to people in the mental aspect of the sporting world, who have been able to help me set goals and tick things off mentally as well, to become a better player.”

The Wests Tigers will be looking to make it two in a row this Saturday when they take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs at CommBank Stadium.

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