MY LIFE IN EXILE
Regrets of the NRL star told ’no one wants you in their team’
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