Following his first line break of the year, Jackson Hastings is determined to incorporate more running into his game to help the Knights stay in contention for the finals. The 27-year-old halfback attributed the decline in his running game to both mental demons from last year’s devastating ankle injury and the pressure to support Kalyn Ponga when he was playing five-eighth.
For the 2022 season, Hastings averaged 19 runs per game for 132 meters as a halfback. However, this season, he has only been averaging 11.6 runs per game for 77.3 meters. This discrepancy is expected to change now that his physical confidence is returning. Despite a scare last week that made him fear a repeat ankle injury, with Tyson Gamble now alongside him in the halves, Hastings plans to take on the opposition’s defensive line more regularly.
Reflecting on his injury, Hastings mentioned that at the start of the year, there was fear in the back of his mind due to the trauma and pain associated with his ankle injury. He spent eight weeks with his leg raised, which he described as the most painful experience he has ever had. As a result, he hesitated to push himself physically on the field.
With Gamble back, Hastings has been running the ball more frequently over the past four weeks. He emphasised that his running game is actually one of his biggest strengths, which has been evident throughout his career from his time in the grades to playing in England.
Although his running statistics have declined, Hastings has excelled in his playmaking role. So far this year, he has nine try involvements, making him one of the competition’s top performers in this area, alongside Storm half Jahrome Hughes.
The upcoming Beanie for Brain Cancer Round holds special significance for Hastings as he has developed a close friendship with Mark Hughes, who is the driving force behind the initiative. Hughes, a former Knight who played 161 games for the club, opened his home to Hastings when he first arrived in Newcastle and employed his partner at his gym.
Hastings spoke highly of Hughes, stating that he admires him not only as a figure in the NRL and Newcastle but also as a role model for people facing difficult times. The personal connection has deepened his appreciation for Hughes and his efforts in raising awareness for brain cancer. Playing in this round holds added significance for Hastings, as he feels a responsibility to contribute more to honor Hughes’ work and dedication to finding a cure.
To support the Beanie for Brain Cancer Round, beanies will be available for purchase online at all Lowes Australia stores, participating IGA Australia stores in NSW, QLD, and ACT, and the Mark Hughes Foundation website. The proceeds will go towards brain cancer research.