MY LIFE IN EX­ILE

Re­grets of the NRL star told ’no one wants you in their team’

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - FRONT PAGE - PHIL ROTHFIELD

NRL star Jack­son Hast­ings, dubbed the most un­pop­u­lar man in rugby league, has re­vealed how he cried when he read that his team­mates didn’t want to play with him. The 22-year-old Manly back, who con­fesses to not fully un­der­stand­ing why he doesn’t fit in, said: “You’re ban­ished. You’re an out­cast. It can be pretty daunt­ing to be told you’re not wanted by your work­mates.” How­ever, Hast­ings is de­ter­mined to change. “It’s about try­ing to make my­self a bet­ter bloke. I’m try­ing to change re­ally hard.”

HE’s been branded the most un­pop­u­lar man in rugby league, an out­cast at the two NRL clubs he has played for and cur­rently ex­iled from the Manly Sea Ea­gles.

Jack­son Hast­ings has sought psy­cho­log­i­cal help.

“It’s about try­ing to make my­self a bet­ter bloke to fit into a team en­vi­ron­ment,” the 22-year-old says in an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The Sun­day Tele­graph.

“I’ve got to do what’s best to fit into the team and the cul­ture. I’m try­ing to change re­ally hard.”

The Hast­ings story is unique in that he doesn’t have a rep­u­ta­tion as an offfield trou­ble maker. He’s no Matt Lodge or Todd Car­ney.

Yet dur­ing the week Manly coach Trent Bar­rett dumped Hast­ings to the NSW Cup sec­ond di­vi­sion com­pe­ti­tion, say­ing his play­ers would refuse to take the field with him.

Yes­ter­day the for­mer Aus­tralian School­boys star ran out for the Black­town Work­ers in their match against Wy­ong on the Cen­tral Coast. “He does have an is­sue fit­ting in with the group,” Bar­rett said.

“I’ve got 29 other play­ers here and I have to look after them as well.”

The dra­matic move fol­lowed a ho­tel room punch- up with skip­per Daly Cherry-Evans after a game in Glad­stone two weeks ago.

The play­ers had been at the Board Room strip club when the trou­ble be­gan.

To be pub­licly ad­mon­ished by the coach has had a dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect, es­pe­cially for a bloke who is a loner, liv­ing with just his two dogs and a fe­male flat­mate.

“You see your face on the back page,” he says. “You’re ban­ished. You’re an out­cast. Then an­other two pages in­side. It can be pretty daunt­ing to be told you’re not wanted by your work­mates.

“It’s hard enough if it’s pri­vate, but to be played out so pub­licly in the me­dia ev­ery day. I’ve cried.

“It’s been re­ally up­set­ting. My mother rings and to hear her sob­bing. It doesn’t only af­fect me, it’s my fam­ily. I can wear it but my poor mum hasn’t stopped cry­ing all week.

“She’s been wor­ried sick about me.”

The en­cour­age­ment and re­as­sur­ance of team­mates have at least given him hope that what Bar­rett said was not en­tirely cor­rect. “I just locked my­self in my house for a cou­ple of days and wouldn’t an­swer my phone,” he said. “I didn’t want to be even seen in pub­lic. But

then my team­mates started text mes­sag­ing me. I’ve got about 10 mes­sages. They all said they wanted me back and check­ing I was OK.”

On Thurs­day night the Sea Ea­gles play­ers had a team din­ner at the Manly Grill restau­rant in the buildup to to­day’s match against Par­ra­matta at ANZ Sta­dium.

The play­ers en­cour­aged him to go, even though he’d been dumped to Black­town. He walked in and Cher­ryE­vans got out of his seat.

They hugged, then shook hands in a scene team­mates said was as emo­tional as it gets. Hast­ings in­sists the Cherry-Evans fall­out has been blown out of pro­por­tion.

Yes­ter­day Manly fined Cherry-Evans $10,000 for his role in the al­ter­ca­tion, say­ing the be­hav­iour fell “mas­sively short” of the club’s ex­pec­ta­tions.

“What hap­pened while we were away hap­pened. We’re grown-ups and I re­spect him not just as a per­son but as a player. We both made a poor de­ci­sion on the night,” Hast­ings said. “The club is big­ger than any­one. It’s a stupid mis­take and we both apol­o­gised.”

Yet Hast­ings had prob­lems at the Syd­ney Roosters too. There were sug­ges­tions that he didn’t fit in. That he an­noyed team­mates and that he was of­ten on the outer, al­though spe­cific de­tails of his ap­par­ent dis­re­spect­ful be­hav­iour re­main a mys­tery be­cause no one, apart from Bar­rett, will go on the record.

Some long-term staff at the Roosters are said to have found Hast­ings dif­fi­cult.

He has been ac­cused of show­ing a “lack of re­spect for the se­nior play­ers” and that ten­sion has spilt over into train­ing ses­sions.

At the Roosters, he clashed with Jake Friend and Mitchell Pearce.

Some play­ers also say Hast­ings strug­gled with the Manly club’s cul­ture of prank­ing and didn’t re­spond well to be­ing on the re­ceiv­ing end of team gags.

When you meet the for­mer ju­nior star it’s hard to un­der­stand. He is po­lite and pol­ished and comes across as a very de­cent young man.

“You go to train­ing ev­ery day to work on your craft but for me there are things I have to work on off the field as well,” he ad­mits.

“The guy I’ve been see­ing (his psy­chol­o­gist) has been fab­u­lous. I’m learn­ing more about my­self. It wasn’t ideal at the Roosters or the way it fin­ished up. It’s hap­pened twice so there are ob­vi­ously things I have to tin­ker with. You are who you are and d in rugby league there are so many dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties. The sit­u­a­tion I’m in would hurt any­one and to be ex­posed so pub­licly, I wouldn’t want any­one else to have to deal with it.”

Hast­ings re­fuses to com­ment on sug­ges­tions Manly of­fi­cials wanted him out to ease fi­nan­cial pres­sure after re­cently be­ing caught bla­tantly cheat­ing the salary cap to the tune of $1.5 mil­lion. In a back-ended two-year con­tract, he got $100,000 last sea­son and $360,000 this year. It’s why his agent, Sam Ay­oub, is watch­ing Manly’s moves closely. And this com­ment by their chief ex­ec­u­tive, Lyall Gor­man: “If a player chooses not to fit into that (cul­ture) then you have to make cul­tural de­ci­sions.”

But for now it’s about get­ting his ca­reer back on track.

“I guar­an­tee you one thing,” Hast­ings says. “I’m not go­ing to feel sorry for my­self. It’s head down, bum up. I’ll train as hard as I can and play as well as I can to earn my spot back in the NRL side. It would be dis­re­spect­ful not to give Black­town ev­ery­thing I’ve got.”

Jack­son Hast­ings at Bondi. Pic­ture: Jonathan Ng

JACK SON HA STINGS FIRST IN­TER­VIEW

Jack­son Hast­ings is de­ter­mined to earn back his place on the Manly team. Pic­ture: Chris Pavlich How the Tele­graph told the story of Hast­ings’ ex­ile. Jack­son Hast­ings and La­trell Mitchell cel­e­brate a try for the Roosters. Pic­ture: Gregg Por­te­ous

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