Jackson Hastings has hailed Blacktown Workers Sea Eagles coach Steven Hales as his ‘saving grace’ following his messy exit from Manly this season amid allegations he had fallen out with captain Daly Cherry-Evans.
Hastings is currently plying his trade for Salford Red Devils in England’s Super League and has been offered a one-year contract extension for the 2019 season after a whirlwind start which saw him score five tries in six games.
Speaking on The Locker Room podcast, Hastings said Hales had helped pick him up from the ‘lowest point of his career’ after he was banished from Manly’s NRL squad by coach Trent Barrett to play with Blacktown in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW.
“My saving grace was Steven Hales who’s the coach of Blacktown,” Hastings said.
“He was so good for me. From day one when I got in trouble I think he had a sixth sense that I might get dropped. He was on the blower to me every day just going, ‘If you need anything I’m here.’
“He and his missus were so good for me. He put me in the frame of mind that you can either make this a good thing or a bad thing. He said, ‘You can kick stones and be (upset) with everyone or you can own it, come back to Blacktown, put your best foot forward and try and help these boys win’.”
Hastings also said it had been a humbling experience for him to play alongside ISP NSW players and realised the sacrifices they made to pursue a Rugby League career.
“You’d see boys turn up with dirt and that over their faces, cuts all over their body and I remember sitting down with ‘Halesy’ and (telling) him ‘Mate, I’m not in a position to be angry anymore’,” Hastings said.
“He said, ‘What do you mean?’ I said, ‘He’s just come from grafting a 12-hour day, digging holes or whatever they do and I’m sitting there complaining that I have to sit in a car for an hour-and-a-half.’
“It made me realise at the end of the day it was my fault and being bitter is not going to help. Being sour is not going to help. Turn up with a good attitude and the boys were that good at Blacktown that I loved every minute of playing with them. That’s the honest truth, I became really good mates with a lot of the boys there and they made it really comfortable for me to go to training.”
Hastings also blamed himself for the predicament he was in, saying he had done the wrong thing by breaking a team curfew after Manly’s round five clash against the Gold Coast before dispelling the reports he had fought with Cherry-Evans.
“To be honest the worst thing we did was break curfew and that’s something I look back on and it was just so stupid,” Hastings said.
“We wouldn’t even be sitting here talking about it if I just didn’t go out and break curfew. It just (upsets me) I made such a dumb decision.
“There was no fight, that’s the thing. What’s a fight? A fight’s when two people punch. That never happened.
“The next day we sat down and spoke about it. We shook hands and got on with it. We thought we were going to get on with just playing footy and obviously he’s gone on to play Origin and he’s vice-captain for Australia which he thoroughly deserves.
“I’m not angry at him, I’m angry at myself for making such a (poor) decision.”