Hastings eyes permanent halves role
Roosters rookie Jackson Hastings says he's not quite sure what his best position on the field is yet but has his fingers crossed recent auditions have paved the way for first crack at Sharks-bound pivot James Maloney's No.6 jersey next season.
Hastings also paid credit to the huge influence Maloney and Roosters halfback Mitch Pearce have had over his development this season.
Hastings, a Junior Kangaroos fullback and NSW under-20s five-eighth, recently spent 80 minutes at halfback in Trent Robinson's side against Newcastle in Round 22 while co-captain Pearce was handed a one-week post-Origin breather.
Playing second fiddle to senior half Maloney, Hastings passed and kicked well, and was involved in the creation of a couple of the side's tries in a very promising outing.
Hastings told NRL.com he was reasonably happy with how he went in the step up having otherwise mostly played 10-minute stints off the bench this year, paying credit to the senior players around him both during the game and helping his development over the course of the year.
"It was my second [first grade] game at halfback playing 80 minutes so it was a bit different to the time I usually get but it was really enjoyable, it was sort of a surreal experience and I was really grateful," he said.
"I'm still improving, still 19 years old, still learning the trade but I'm pretty happy with how I went. I've got a lot of great players around me that made my job easier – Jimmy Maloney and Jake Friend and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck in the spine took a lot of pressure off me and let me play my role and I'm really grateful for that."
He said both Pearce and Maloney had been exceptional for his development since he joined the club from the Dragons at the end of last season, adding while Pearce gets plenty of credit for helping him out, Maloney has been just as crucial.
"They've both been exceptional for me since I've joined the club. Just watching the way they go about their on-field business and off-field business. It's something else and really good to learn from those two," he said.
"Pearcey's been unreal, from day dot he's really taken me under his wing and really helped me and I've learned a lot. Just the way he handles himself, the way he handles criticism, and the way he bounces back from that criticism, it's a credit to him.
"Just to see how tough he is mentally is one of the biggest things that I've learned off him. And the footy side of things, the way he plays week in week out is something special.
"I've got to credit Jimmy a lot as well. Pearcey gets a lot of raps for helping me but I've played a fair bit of footy with Jimmy now and he's made me feel really comfortable and he's really helped me develop into the player I am."
Hastings also thanked his coach Trent Robinson for the way he's helped to transition the youngster into grade.
"He's been really good for me, he hasn't chucked me in the deep end at all, he's really making me work hard on my game and really pushing me to improve every week at training," Hastings said.
"I'm really grateful, he's the type of bloke that makes you want to play for him. He's an exceptional bloke, he's not only a great coach but a great people person. He's really improved me not only as a player but as a person and I'm really grateful for that," he said.
"He's so smart with what we do away from footy and how we gel as a group. He makes you want to play footy for him. I'm grateful he's my coach and I'm grateful for everything he's done for me since I've been at the club."
Robinson has told Hastings to focus on the current season, but Hastings remains hopeful of earning first crack at the No.6 jersey alongside Pearce in 2016.
"He wants me to focus on this year, as the whole team, doing the best and going the furthest we can go this year then next year will take care of itself," Hastings said.
"Obviously there will be a few candidates for that spot so whoever works the hardest and shows they want it the most will end up getting it. I've got a goal to be in that jumper so I'm going to do everything I can to put myself in a good position."
For now Hastings said he is happy living the dream.
"It's really enjoyable, debuting at 18 was such a surreal experience. This year's just been unreal, I'm living the dream, 19 years old, doing what I love is exceptional. I just want to keep improving and keep playing good footy and hopefully keep getting better every year," he said.