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Eighteen months of hell led to Hastings' Test debut

A year-and-a-half ago Jackson Hastings' rugby league stock had plummeted to an all-time low.

Unwanted at the Manly Sea Eagles and unable to get a look in at NRL level amid accusations he clashed with teammates, Hastings was left with little choice but to look to England and take up an offer from Salford in the Super League.

But come Saturday night those torrid times will be a distant memory as the 23-year-old caps a remarkable turnaround by making his Test debut for Great Britain.

"The 18 months before this season was hell really, it was pretty hard to ride that wave out," Hastings told NRL.com ahead of the match against Tonga at Waikato Stadium.

"It was at a point where I didn't think it was ever going to end and I was just going to be back page news and just getting hammered. 

Great Britain halfback Jackson Hastings.
Great Britain halfback Jackson Hastings. ©Brett Phibbs/photosport.nz

"To be able to come out the other side and get picked up by Salford, play good footy and make a grand final, to achieve the things I have been able to achieve this year and then top it off with a Great Britain tour, that is something that I couldn't even dream of 12 months ago.

"Now I get to spend six weeks with [Wayne Bennett] the best coach that's ever coached the game.

The 18 months before this season was hell really, it was pretty hard to ride that wave out

Great Britain halfback Jackson Hastings

"It's worked out not too bad for me." 

Despite his form in the Super League this year – which saw him set up 36 tries and pick up the Man of Steel award – Hastings told NRL.com he still didn't think he would be in the frame for Great Britain, who he qualifies for through his England-born grandmother.

"I don't think I had a point throughout the year that I thought I was going to make any [rep] team, I just wanted to win the Super League title and whatever came off the back of that was a huge bonus," Hastings said.

"It's always hard going home [at the end of each club season] and not being part of rep teams, you sort of sit at home and just wish you were part of it.

"For 23 years now I've watched Australia v New Zealand Test matches, New Zealand v England Test matches, all of the Test matches, and I have always been itching to be part of something like that.

"Come Saturday night I get the chance to fulfil a dream of playing Test footy."

Hastings joins Lachlan Coote and Blake Austin as the three Australia-born players in the wider squad, with their inclusion attracting the ire of some who argue their heritage links don't make them British.

Lachlan Coote races away to score for St Helens
Lachlan Coote races away to score for St Helens ©Photosport

Coote has the strongest counter argument to that, having represented Scotland previously, but told NRL.com he understood the complaints. 

"There's always going to be criticism isn't there? They are trying to say that I wouldn't have grown up dreaming to play for the Lions, and no I didn't, but if I'm eligible to be part of the team there's no reason why I can't be picked," Coote said.

"I have been born and bred in Australia which is why the criticism has come about, but I'm at St Helens now, love living there, and enjoyed my time with Scotland as well. 

"I'm the only guy that's played for Scotland in this team. I'm flying the flag for the Scotland team and hopefully I do them proud."