2018 has been the year of the turnaround in Super League.
Josh Drinkwater’s arrival signalled a change in Catalans’ fortune, the arrival of Simon Woolford at Huddersfield saw them march into the top eight and now Salford Red Devils look set to secure their Super League status after signing the enigmatic Australian half, Jackson Hastings.
After three games of The Qualifiers, the AJ Bell Stadium club are the only team with a perfect record at this stage and look a different team than that which struggled through Super League before the league split. With head coach Ian Watson bemoaning a lack of players and poor performances through the season, the Red Devils finished second bottom in the table and had the second worst attack and second worst defence in the competition. Teams faced Salford quite possibly feeling that they would be a soft touch – but no longer is that the case.
Hastings arrived after being banished to the reserve grade competition in Australia after falling out of favour at Manly as rumours of disagreements with club captain Daly Cherry-Evans abounded. July saw the 22-year-old arrive with Salford and the Lancashire club’s Director of Rugby, Ian Blease, believed it would be a signing which would excite fans.
An immediate impact was made by Hastings as he scored a try and was involved in creating two others – all in a debut appearance which lasted just under twenty minutes as he was withdrawn as a precaution. That was the final game of the ‘regular’ season and, with the Super 8s starting shortly afterwards, the Australian has starred in each game since. A persistent running threat, his ability with ball in hand has been coupled with the dynamic partnership he seems to have immediately formed with fellow Australian half Robert Lui. With five goals and two tries thus far in The Qualifiers – as well as having a hand in many others – Hastings is proving to be a pivotal player for Salford at this crucial part of the season.
Having signed a deal until the end of the season when he joined this summer, Hastings is enjoying being back on the pitch and doing what he does best. Whether he is wearing Salford red in 2019 is a different matter and he hasn’t ruled it out. Nevertheless, his ability is clear – he has been the catalyst to turn Salford’s form and performances around and, wherever he is in 2019, Get ’em Onside hopes he is still gracing the stadiums of Super League.