NSW State of Origin legend Brad Fittler says Blues fans will get a glimpse of the future when Sydney Roosters prodigy Jackson Hastings steps up for shamed captain Mitchell Pearce.
The son of club icon Kevin Hastings will be tasked with orchestrating a Roosters attack in the absence of Pearce, whose NRL career remains in the balance as he addresses alcohol issues at an overseas rehab clinic.
Fittler was reluctant to discuss Pearce’s Australia Day antics but was excited at the prospect of Hastings, 20, taking over as lead playmaker, where he is expected to partnered in the halves by rookie Jayden Nikorima.
“A lot of it’s going to be them getting their head around big time footy, and Jackson Hastings especially taking a lot more responsibility,” Fittler said.
“We’ll get a real good opportunity to see some of the future of NSW in Jackson Hastings.”
It is understood the NRL integrity unit’s investigation into Pearce’s lewd video is now complete, although a punishment is unlikely to be handed out until the club returns from England.
The Roosters squad is currently preparing in Dubai for their World Club Series clash against St Helens next week, where Fittler hopes coach Trent Robinson is rallying his troops after a tumultuous start to the year.
“It can be a tough time travelling to England, a lot of travel,” he said.
“(But) if used rightly, and the boys bond well over there and get a good result, it can be a real positive for the club. It’s something they need, to get out of Sydney at the moment.”
The Roosters pre-season was thrown into further disarray after vice-captain Boyd Cordner was ruled out for three months with a pectoral injury, on the back of losing star centre Michael Jennings to Parramatta in January.
And with Blake Ferguson playing fullback for the first time and key prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves on the comeback trail from an ACL injury, this season looms as the biggest test of Robinson’s tenure.
“What a great challenge for the coach,” Fittler said.
“He had a pretty good run there early and with Jennings, Sonny (Bill Williams) and Luke O’Donnell – he got them surprising when he first started.
“Now this is a great opportunity for him to unite the club and bring them together and he’s going to have to work pretty hard to get results this year.”
The Roosters begin their season against arch rivals South Sydney on March 6.