Jackson Hastings wants to give his “biggest supporter” the ideal ‘get well’ gift – a Grand Final winners’ ring for his grandad Jim.
The Wigan ace discovered that the 81-year-old needed open-heart surgery just days before starring in his side’s semi-final victory over Hull FC.
Hastings had ‘Big Jim’ written on his wrist in Thursday’s 29-2 win at the DW Stadium, and will again draw on him for inspiration for Friday’s decider against St Helens.
Speaking exclusively to League Express, Hastings explained: “I grew up with a single mother and my grandfather pretty much acted like my dad, he took me everywhere.
“He’s been there every step of the way and he’s one of the main reasons I am where I am, through his sacrifice and hard work.
“My mum says when he found out he needed open-heart surgery he told the doctors to get stuffed because he wanted to watch his grandson play in the Grand Final! So there’s pressure there to win it for him and it would be massive if I could actually do it.
“I don’t really ever play the game for other people, I play it to be the best I can be. But this is definitely one of the occasions when I’m playing for someone.”
Hastings, on the losing side with Salford in last year’s Grand Final, was quick to give his grandad a call after booking his return to the big dance.
“You could tell he was so proud and so happy we’ve got there, and now he wants me to go one step further this year and actually win it.
“Grandad’s very honest, if I haven’t played the best of games he’ll be the first to tell me, but he’ll also be the one to give me the biggest raps.
“He’s got all my jerseys; my NRL debut jersey, junior State of Origin… fingers crossed, when I go back home and he gets out of hospital, I can give him a Super League winners’ ring.”
Though his dad Kevin enjoyed a distinguished career with Eastern Suburbs in the Seventies and Eighties, playing for New South Wales and also having a stint at Barrow, it was mum Megan and grandad Jim who gave Hastings his passion for the game and kept him on course for stardom.
“I was a bit of a cheeky kid, I didn’t always work hard and would look for a short-cut, but grandad was always really hard on me, never gave me too much praise and always made sure I was held accountable for my actions.
“They’re characteristics I try to hold on to.
“He’s been there through every up and every down, and I’m just so glad the last couple of years have been ups for him, because I’ve put my family through a lot of drama. To see him happy is a great feeling.”
Megan will be at Jim’s side for the game, having moved in as her father’s full-time carer.
“Mum says she’s going to get the whole family round,” revealed Hastings.
“Knowing her, she’ll probably invite everyone in the neighbourhood!
“Where we’re from, in Warilla (just south of Wollongong), everyone knows each other and everyone knows my grandad.
“Hopefully I can deliver and put a smile on everyone’s face.”
Hastings also hopes to put smiles on some faces in England, where his partner Amelia will be watching with her family.
Warriors fans partly have them to thank for their favourite penning a new one-year deal with the club earlier this month.
“Having people who genuinely care about me definitely makes it a lot easier,” said the Great Britain international.
“They’ve played a massive role in helping me feel comfortable, especially through lockdown.
“I’ve become really close with her mum, dad and sisters. These last six months have been a massive factor in what I wanted to do.”
Hastings admits there was “genuine interest” from the NRL, while his former club Salford was also looking for signs he could be prised away from the Warriors.
“We had a few conversations, but I didn’t want to be a player that jumped from club to club every year and not settle,” he explained.
“There were some pretty good offers that I had to seriously look at, but at the same time my heart always told me to stay at Wigan. I’m probably happier this past six months than I’ve ever been.”
Hastings will be happier still if Wigan can dethrone their old rivals as Super League champions, and he’ll be using Salford’s 23-6 loss to Saints at Old Trafford last season as “burning motivation”.
“I don’t want to be lying on the ground after the game and watching people run past me celebrating again, that’s for sure,” he said.
“That was heartbreaking. When you think that it could have been you, it’s a pretty low feeling. You feel like you’ve let people down.
“I definitely don’t want to have that feeling again. I want to get that ring on my finger.”
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