Sydney Roosters captain Jake Friend says Jackson Hastings has out-grown his rookie tag and backs him not to miss a beat standing in for Mitchell Pearce.
Pearce is set to miss a month with a hamstring injury, throwing 19-year-old Hastings into the NRL cauldron a fortnight before the finals series.
Coach Trent Robinson’s heavy investment in the son of Roosters great Kevin “Horrie” Hastings looks about pay off.
Both Pearce and halves partner James Maloney took Hastings under their wing during the pre-season and he has been training alongside them all year.
He has also been slowly blooded by Robinson from the bench in anticipation of him moving into the halves full time next year upon Maloney’s departure for Cronulla.
He has performed admirably whenever steering the side around the park in Pearce’s absence, including when thrown into the fray after the NSW No.7 went down in the first 20 minutes against Brisbane on Saturday.
While Hastings is being asked to step up at the pointy end of the season, Friend said on Tuesday that he had been working towards the same eventuality all year.
“It is a tough position for him to step into but I think he’s played enough games to handle that pressure,” Friend said.
“We’ve all got confidence in Jacko and are looking forward to seeing how that goes.”
The Roosters are reeling after prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves was ruled out for the rest of the year with an ACL injury on Saturday and with Pearce not expected back before the finals.
Centre Michael Jennings will also miss Friday’s showdown with Manly after accepting a one-week suspension for a high tackle.
Friend said Robinson had spent a lot of time building combinations across the entire squad and preparing for such emergencies.
“The boys that will come in have all trained in the positions they’ll play in,” Friend said.
“They’ll have combinations with the guys there.”