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'Watching the finals isn't good enough': Hastings sets sights on top and insists he can only get better in Newcastle

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4 hours ago
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A determined Jackson Hastings insists his best football is ahead of him at Newcastle as he prepares to play at his sixth club in nine years across both sides of the globe.

Hastings arrived at Newcastle this week, days after the swap deal for him to leave wooden-spooners Wests Tigers in return for the Knights’ David Klemmer was complete.

At Newcastle, the playmaker will be charged with helping turn around a club that lacked any fluidity in its spine last season and finished 15th with only the Tigers having a worse attack.

Hastings is the first to admit he has “lived about 1000 lives” in an emotional past eight years, but is adamant at age 26 he will reach his prime at the Knights after signing a three-season deal.

“I am still learning,” Hastings said. “I remember Joey (Andrew Johns) telling me when I was 18 the game doesn’t slow down properly for you until you are about 27 or 28. 

“I don’t think I will hit my peak as a halfback until age 28 or 30. With sports science these days, 30 isn’t even old.”

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Hastings is under no illusions about the tough turnaround required at Newcastle.

“I have played two grand finals now (in England), been in some successful sides in the NRL,” he said. “I know what it is like to be at the back end of the year and up the top there competing for trophies. 

“It’s an itch you need to scratch every year – watching the finals isn’t good enough. It’s where we want to get this club to.”

Hastings could form part of a completely new-look Knights halves combination, with Newcastle weighing up moving Kalyn Ponga to five-eighth to partner him.

Johns, currently working with the club as a consultant, is among those wanting the Knights to shift Ponga out of the No.1 jersey. Regardless, Hastings is aware that whatever combination he forms with Ponga will be crucial.

“Everyone knows what Kalyn can do,” he said. “Knowing I get to play with someone of that calibre will be amazing for my game.  He is a massive threat with the football and my job is to get him the ball in open space and let him do his thing.”

Josh Jackson. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

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Meanwhile, Canterbury have wasted no time in finding a new job for their recently-retired captain Josh Jackson, with the club legend named as a Strength & Conditioning coach for 2023.

Jackson hung up the boots after 241 games and with a year to run on his contract, opting not to usher in a new era under rookie coach Cameron Ciraldo.

The Bulldogs’ general manager of football Phil Gould had previously hinted on social media that Jackson would remain involved with the club but his appointment was not publicly announced until Wednesday evening.

Jackson graduated from the University of Newcastle with a Bachelor of Exercise and Sport in 2017 and has also studied towards a Graduate Certificate in High Performance Sport.

The 31-year-old said he looked forward to putting his studies to use under high-performance manager Travis Touma.

“I’m really grateful that I’m able to stay on with the club in the strength and conditioning role. It’s made the transition (into retirement) really easy for me,” Jackson said.

“I’ll still be around footy and around the boys and staff. So, I’m really looking forward to and excited about the next chapter. 

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“I’m excited to work with Travis and I think what excites me the most is being able to have a hand in the development of younger players.”

Canterbury are hoping Jackson can leverage his experience as the club’s fifth-most capped player of all time in his new role.

“We have seen his value, his work ethic, and what he can bring to his teammates well beyond his post as a captain and player,” Bulldogs CEO Aaron Warburton said. “To retain him in the blue and white is a huge win for us.”

The Bulldogs are expected to announce their new captain in 2023, with Reed Mahoney, Josh Addo-Carr, Luke Thompson and Matt Burton among the candidates to replace Jackson.

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