Rising Sydney Roosters star Jackson Hastings says he hopes to emulate the path trailblazed by Brisbane halfback Ben Hunt.
Fresh from his semi-final heroics last week, Hastings reverts to the bench for returning skipper Mitchell Pearce in Friday night’s preliminary final against the Broncos.
But the 19-year-old says he’s more than happy to continue his apprenticeship as an impact hooker, where Hunt spent almost four years honing his game before his breakout season in 2014.
Hastings, who earned plenty of plaudits filling in for Pearce over the past month, believes Hunt’s ascension has set a trend for young playmakers looking to earn the respect of their teammates.
“For any young kid that gets chucked in there, it’s a really good way to get chucked in the deep end and learn how to swim, as they say,” Hastings told AAP.
“For me it’s been a blessing in disguise, coming off the bench and playing little increments every week. It’s got me ready for what I’m doing now.”
Like Hunt’s initiation into first grade, Hastings has spent most of his first 18 games providing relief minutes at dummy-half, which has given him an opportunity to develop his defence.
Hunt, who has gone on to Queensland and Australian honours over the past year, is now considered one of the best defensive halfbacks in the game.
“You’ve got big blokes running at you left, right and centre, so it helps a lot with your defensive game,” Hastings said.
“When you’re at half, you don’t get as much traffic as you do at hooker.
“You get the occasional big, back-rower running a good line, but you’ve had all that experience in the middle tackling big blokes constantly.
“So for confidence, it’s really good. And in terms of toughening you up, it’s also good.”
Having tested his mettle against the game’s premiers No. 7s in Cooper Cronk, Adam Reynolds and Daly Cherry-Evans over the past month, the son of club legend Kevin Hastings now renews hostilities with long-time rival Kodi Nikorima in an intriguing head-to-head battle off the bench.
“Kodi’s a good mate of mine and he’s going outstanding for the Broncos this year,” Hastings said.
“He’s been a real find for them and I’m sure in the future, he’ll be a starter somewhere in the spine. It’s going to be good going up against him.”