Des Hasler has spoken for the first time since parting ways with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, opening up on a text exchange with Josh Jackson after he was named captain six weeks ago.
Jackson was one of Hasler’s biggest supporters and the text he received from the former coach after being named as James Graham’s successor as captain only added to the emotion of a special moment for the 27-year-old.
"He sent me a text after they announced the captaincy which is something I really appreciated,” Jackson said.
"I will always have a lot of time for Des. He gave me my first opportunity. I grew a lot as a player and as a person under him. He’s someone that I respect a lot.
"It meant a lot to me for him to send me that message. I'll never forget the contribution he has made to my career but also the influence he has had on me as an individual."
Hasler hasn’t surfaced since his departure from Belmore, however when asked by NRL.com to comment on Jackson before his first game as skipper in Perth on Saturday, the wily coach didn’t hesitate.
It speaks volumes of the respect the pair have for each other and the strength of their relationship, with Hasler admitting there was only one applicant at the club ready to fill the shoes of Graham.
"Josh was never a hard decision. He was always going to be captain," Hasler told NRL.com.
"I think one of the most important and strongest things for captaincy and leadership is integrity, and he’s got bucketloads of it. It was never going to be a hard decision. That’s his greatest attribute, integrity.
"It’s a great attribute, as well as being a good footballer. Those other parts are vital for the role he’s going to fill and he’ll do a great job at it. That’s why he’s the captain, because integrity is a strong part of captaincy.”
You'd be hard pressed finding anyone to argue with Dean Pay's decision.
Jackson has always let his actions do the talking, and even during the club's under-performing season in 2017, he never wavered in his desire and commitment to the cause.
The reality is, Jackson never wanted Hasler to leave. He believed in the coach.
But it wasn't until Jackson saw the impact of a fresh change did he realise how much the club needed to go in a different direction in 2018.
"I have always got along well with Des and liked his training methods," Jackson said.
"I was fine with all that. I will never bag him. We were working really hard off the field last year, but the harder we worked the worse it got for us I feel. But I guess until you get something new, you don't really appreciate that you needed a change. That's come in the form of Deano.
"He's pretty laid back personality - that's not to say he's not intense on the field because we've been training really hard. But he just gives us something different. Our routine and the way we go about training and doing things differently. Everyone is very excited around the place."
Facing the premiers, the Melbourne Storm, is a fair baptism of fire, but the backrower isn't planning anything special before he leads his teammates onto Perth's new state-of-the-art stadium.
"Despite what everyone says, I don't say nothing," Jackson joked.
"I will always have something to say before a game. It will just be something similar to what I always say. There won't be any inspirational type speech. I just want to be someone that leads by example. Someone that sets the standard.
"If you want people to do things a certain way, you have to show them how to do it. That's how you get respect. Saying you're going to do something and actually doing it."
Graham said his successor at the Dogs had been his right-hand man for some time.
"Josh Jackson has been a leader around there for so, so long now and helped me immensely in my time as captain there," the St George Illawarra Dragons recruit said.
"Some of the things he does on a rugby league field are really, really inspiring. Some things that I’ve watched first hand in his game you don’t see from many. I think he’s going to really, really take the role on well. It’s going to be successful for him."
One man on the opposition team on Saturday who knows just how far Jackson has come is Ryan Hoffman, who was in starting side for NSW when Jackson made his Origin debut in 2015.
"He was certainly, I felt, the captain in waiting at the Bulldogs so it wasn’t a matter if, it was a matter of when before he got the captaincy because he had that leadership potential all over himself," Hoffman said.
"And to be honest, if it wasn’t for such a fantastic leader like Boyd Cordner, he probably would be captain of NSW as well."