Hastings and Cowboys – Peas in a Pod

Jackson Hastings
Photo Credit: Getty Images/Cover Art

Jackson Hastings featured in just thirteen matches during the 2017-18 season before the Sea Eagles tossed him aside like rotten leftovers, and as a result, he was forced to resurrect his career in England. He did that mightily indeed, bagging multiple Grand Final appearances to his name, in addition to winning the Man of Steel award, the English Super League’s equivalent of the Dally M. Whilst he has seven try assists to his name for the Tigers this year, being a shining highlight in an otherwise pretty bleak Wests campaign.

Meanwhile, the Cowboys have also formed their resurgence in an entirely different part of the country. Last season saw them finish 15th with a dismal record of only seven wins, seventeen defeats and a PD of -288. However, under Todd Payten, they have turned things around as of late, currently occupying the 2nd spot on the ladder, having lost just five games from nineteen attempts.

Despite not appearing at first glance, the Wollongong-born, ex-Wigan Warriors Five Eighth Hastings and 4X total trophy-winning Cowboys share many similarities. And as much as everyone loves to whinge and whine about a Rugby League failure story (e.g., Cleary’s recent jarring moment or the bunker robbing the Tigers), a rag-to-riches one is hugely better. With two of them being placed right here.

Issues in Queensland

Gladstone, best known for being home to Queensland’s largest multi-commodity shipping port, the port of Gladstone, around 1500kms away from Manly’s training base in Narrabeen, was ironically where Hasting’s ill-fated stint with Manly ended with quite the bang. Club captain Daly Cherry-Evans was fined $10,000 for his involvement in a then senile bust-up with the now Tigers playmaker. That was around the same time Hastings was caught red-handed at a strip club after a heartbreaking Manly loss. As was the obvious choice, Hastings was dropped to the NSW Cup to play for the Blacktown Workers, and he packed his bags and headed out pretty quickly after that. However, I believe and reiterate that Cherry-Evans, a firm representative of the club, should’ve been forced to show more accountability for his heinous actions.

England: A country where players go to reignite their careers

Hastings proceeded to join the Salford Red Devils in England, where he dominated the competition, claiming the Man of Steel Award, crossing for fifteen tries over two seasons (despite his position) and coming within an inch of a first Red Devils Grand Final victory since 1976. After that, he headed to Wigan for another two seasons, where he bolted down an impressive thirteen tries to go along with yet another appearance in the ‘Big Dance. Only adding to his European legacy was that in RD7 of the 2021 Super League season, he kicked the match-winning FG vs ex-employers Salford to claim a 17-16 result!

The next best thing since Benji Marshall himself

Now plying his trade for Wests, and despite suffering a season-ending ankle injury vs Brisbane earlier, it’s safe to say he’s officially turned his career around if he hadn’t already done so. During RD6 this year, he kicked a stunning FG from 38ms out to stun Parramatta 21-20! Many Tigers supporters consider him a far more lethal option than fellow long-time playmaker Luke Brooks. Fans want him to lead the club into its next era of glory, and it’s straightforward to envision why precisely that is. His seven try assists on the campaign are equal to that of Clint Gutherson and more than Damien Cook (five), and his 91% tackle success rate this season (321/352) makes him a uniquely versatile defensive player too. Plus, at twenty-six, he still has some ripe Footy.

Last season = Terrible, but this one = Joyous

For North Queensland, meanwhile, they started this season, winning eight of their first eleven games. Whereas in comparison, they collected just five victories last year over the same number of opening season clashes. Also, of important note, they gave up 20+ points twenty-two times out of twenty-four H2Hs. Last season they were barely able to tread water; during this campaign, they are drowning the opposition with their suffocating defence. Last round, they kept the Dragons to just one try (eight points) away from home without going into a heap of nitty-gritty details. They let in just two tries during their earlier H2H at Queensland Country Bank Stadium. They’ve also kept the Titans to one try a piece in their two games against each other this season. That’s just a couple of their many examples from this season to date!

Todd Payten: A man on a mission to restore the Cowboys battered image

Their defence has been just one of the factors contributing to their fairy tale turnaround, as part of their success should also be attributed to two-hundred and sixty game NRL veteran Todd Payten. The former Tiger, Rooster and Raider turned Cowboys head coach has his young, pacy side playing with a bunch of jubilances and underdog talent every time they step out onto the field. Whether it’s the sudden emergence of Hamiso Tubai-Fidow, five tries from sixteen matches or Valentine Holmes reaching vintage Cronulla-like form, the once increasingly under fire forty-three-year-old has his side contesting the League as a genuine Premiership contender.

The Cowboys are quickly gaining supporters from far and wide as they’ve given fans a third option to back outside the ‘boring’ Panthers and Storm. North Queensland’s resurgence has not only been a brilliant plus for them but has also reignited a seemingly stagnant and boring National Rugby League competition. They’ve thrown a spanner into the works!

Hastings and the Cowboys have thus far gone along emotional yet enriching journeys. And while I can only speak for myself, long may they both continue, for the benefit of themselves and the beloved game in general.

Toby is somebody who is a knowledgeable and passionate sports fan, but none more than the NRL. From a young age, he has been covering and supporting Australia’s greatest code. He has diplomas in both sports and business, while he loves a good laugh, some good food and travelling.

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