The ability for a family legacy to help or hinder a young player’s career has been a Rugby League anomaly for decades, but one Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles playmaker found out the hard way: when your last name is Hastings and you play for the Roosters, you can expect some added pressure.
That pressure, of course, cannot be blamed entirely for Jackson Hastings’ falling out at the Eastern Suburbs club and the 21-year-old was honest when speaking to the Daily Telegraph earlier this year:
“I rubbed a lot up the wrong way early on at the Roosters,’’ Hastings said shortly after leaving the club. “And that was hard to fix. I was 17 when I went there and I didn’t earn the respect of the older boys. And I regret that.”
Now, two weeks into the 2017 season, the Western Suburbs Wollongong junior is finding his feet in a new system at the Manly Sea Eagles, where he has spent the opening fortnight playing for the club’s Blacktown feeder. Despite the Sea Eagles' slow start, it is the change of scenery Hastings needed.
“Obviously it’s been disappointing that both grades (NRL and Intrust Super Premiership NSW) have lost two on the trot, but I’m really enjoying everyone’s company and enjoying what Manly has to offer,” Hastings tells NSWRL.com.au. “I’ve moved over there (to Manly) now so I’m set up, comfortable over there and it’s been really good.”
Hastings burst onto the NRL scene with enormous potential, having represented NSW at under-16s, ’18s and ’20s levels and both the Australian Schoolboys and Junior Kangaroos. The son of Roosters legend Kevin Hastings, he debuted for the club in 2014 and would go on to play 34 NRL games before issues with respect put him on the outer at the tricolours. Hastings has put those troubles behind him and is happy to bide his time at Blacktown.
“I definitely learned a lot from my past experience and just happy to move on and get that out of the way,” Hastings says. “If you don’t learn from the mistakes that I’d made in the past then you’re a pretty dumb person.
“Blacktown have been really welcoming of all the (NRL-contracted) boys coming back and all the players have been really welcoming of us boys coming back as well,” Hastings adds. “I’ve got no added responsibility, I’m just here to play some footy and do my best like everyone else.”
Hastings was one of three key playmaker signings for Manly this season, along with former Storm player Blake Green and former Titan Cameron Cullen. While the experienced Green has taken up the starting five-eighth role alongside Daly Cherry-Evans, Cullen was promoted to the NRL bench in Round 2 after a strong first outing for Blacktown. Having played in both halves positions, at hooker and off the bench during his stint at the Roosters, Hastings could fill any number of roles at Manly and will be considered throughout the season. Right now, however, he’s in the right setting to continue to develop in all areas of his life.
“I’m trying to,” Hastings says. “It’s hard, but I’m trying to mature as a person and as a player as well.”
Hastings will fly to Townsville this weekend, as part of the extended Manly squad to take on the Cowboys at NRL level. The Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles, meanwhile, will take on the Wentworthville Magpies as they chase their first-ever win in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.