Super League Grand Final: Jackson Hastings' rise from NRL outcast to Man of Steel
|Betfred Super League Grand Final|
|Venue: Old Trafford Date: Saturday, 12 October Kick-off: 18:00 BST|
|Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Merseyside and BBC Radio Manchester, live text commentary on BBC Sport website, highlights at 17:00 BST on BBC Two on Sunday|
Jackson Hastings has prepared for the Super League Grand Final as the English game's top player knowing his career almost came to an end 16 months ago.
After leaving Australian side Manly after a reported bust-up with a team-mate, Salford handed him a lifeline.
Last Sunday he won the Man of Steel award after helping Salford reach their first Grand Final two days earlier.
"I was thinking about what I'd do with my life away from rugby league," the 23-year-old said of his NRL fall-out.
By the end of his time at Manly, he was banished from the Sydney club - playing instead for feeder side Blacktown.
"I was playing part-time on a full-time contract after I got into a bit of trouble and wasn't allowed to go to training or be around the team or anything like that," Hastings told BBC Radio 5 Live before Saturday's Grand Final against St Helens.
"I was scratching my head all day and driving an hour and a half to go to Blacktown, training for an hour and then driving home.
"I'd been in the professional system since I was 17, so it was a big shock to the system. I wasn't doing much, that's for sure."
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An "inkling" that there was interest in his services in Britain turned into firm offer from a struggling Salford side in July 2018.
A cast-off he may have been, but he was quickly embraced as a Red Devil.
His first 20 minutes in the English game, he recalls, was played to chants of his name from the stands.
"I'd never experienced anything like that before, the love affair started there and then and hasn't ended," Hastings said.
"I've had some very special occasions with these fans behind me. Even at The Lowry when I picked up the Man of Steel award, they were singing my name.
"It has been a very special journey and something I'm very proud of."
His journey with Salford comes to an end at Old Trafford on Saturday, with the half-back joining five-time Super League champions Wigan for the 2020 season.
Hastings, however, knows he owes his career renaissance to the Red Devils.
"I'm extremely proud to play for this club, they have done so much for me," he continued.
"The Man of Steel was the biggest moment of my career. That's something no-one can take away from me, I have my name alongside those of legends. That is a huge honour."
To make his Salford swansong at Old Trafford - a ground nicknamed The Theatre of Dreams - into a glorious one against heavy favourites St Helens on Saturday will demand one of game's greatest upsets.
But he is a believer in storybook endings.
"It's David v Goliath, but you never know what will happen in that story," Hastings added.
"Sometimes fairy tales happen and sometimes they don't."