Jackson Hastings believes he is a better player now than when he won the Man of Steel award last year.
The Australian, who is off-contract with Wigan at the end of the season, played a key role as the Warriors picked up an impressive and important victory over top four rivals Warrington on Friday night.
The halfback laid on a brilliant try for Zak Hardaker, which was his 15th assist of the season.
Only Jonny Lomax and Aidan Sezer have created more tries in Super League this year and Hastings has made more carries than anyone else in the competition, which is a distinction he also held in 2019 at Salford.
However, his involvements have been less documented since his move to the Warriors, given that he is sharing the spotlight with the likes of Bevan French, Thomas Leuluai and Sam Powell.
That has resulted in some criticism of his displays. But Hastings believes he is producing better levels of performance than those that saw him crowned as the competition’s best player last season.
“I’m going for quality over quantity,” Hastings told League Express.
“I’m trying to manipulate defences, wrapping around late, picking short sides, trying to give defences what they don’t want.
“Last year I think I was guilty of going for the knockout blow in every play and trying to be involved in every single tackle, whereas this year I’m blessed to be playing around some incredible players. You’ve got Bevan French and Tommy Leuluai, then some great ball-playing forwards. Joe Shorrocks has really come on in that role, as has Morgan Smithies and you’ve obviously got Sean O’Loughlin. Those guys are decoys and open up plays for me to pick the right time to strike.
“People are obsessed with highlight reels, but the goal is to play on the last day of the year. If that means me having a more subtle role in the side, that’s absolutely fine by me.”
Hastings is confident that with Wigan he’ll be able to do that for a second year running.
“It’s not going to go your way all the time, so you either roll your sleeves up or you crumble. The Wigan way is to roll your sleeves up, which is what this club has done for a long time and it’s what we did against Warrington. We had guys playing out of their backsides and struggling to breathe. But you either bend over and say it’s too hard or you find a way.
“We’ve been down in a lot of games, but clawed it back and stayed in the fight, which is big for us.”
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