Jackson Hastings (HLF): NEWCASTLE KNIGHTS

Hastings finally home in Hunter?

One of the standout buys of last season upon his return from Super League, Jackson Hastings now finds himself as the lead man in the Hunter following a move to Newcastle in the offseason.

Hastings struggled to find a consistent role in 2022, with too many chefs in the kitchen, he’d often be shuffled around the lineup between Five-Eighth, Halfback or where he ultimately ended up before a season ending leg injury, at lock. Despite the shuffling, Hastings was very good and now as the feature Halfback and a looming halves partnership with Kalyn Ponga, can Hastings improve on last year?

Hastings finished the 2022 season with an average of 45 and is priced at $645,000, however many fantasy players will remember the run he had from round 6 to round 11 when he was handed the keys to the car, took over the lions share of the kicking and playmaking and was able to average 54 during that span with over 300 kick metres per game. Towards the end of his round 11 appearance against the Bulldogs, Hastings was forced from the field with a foot injury and saw a significant decrease in his weekly kick metres from that point onwards, including handing the goal kicking duties to Luke Brooks.

If Hastings is able to match the statistical output he achieved the last time he was healthy and steering an offence, then he would undoubtedly be a buy and likely a cut price keeper. What can we realistically expect from Hastings? Partnered with Ponga, Hastings would likely be responsible for at least 75% of the kicking duties, meaning at least 300m on average is a fairly reasonable estimate. During the previously mentioned six game span, Hastings had 0 tries, a 66% try assist rate and an average of 16 tackles per game. All very replicable numbers in a team expected to be not much better than the Tigers were last year and in the case of the tries, a certainty to improve.

The main question marks surrounding Hastings ability to have keeper value are:

  1. Goal kicking – will he be the first choice goal kicker or will Ponga begin the year with the tee? If it’s Ponga, you can put a line through Hastings for now.
  2. Run metres – Hastings is undoubtedly  a running half, averaging 135m per game last season. That average is on par with other noted running halves such as Dylan Brown (119m), Nicho Hynes (121m) or Cameron Munster (141m) so it’s certainly possible Hastings could keep this up. However, Hastings achieved this average partnered mainly with Luke Brooks. He’ll now have to share the duties with Ponga whose main strength is his running game. I’m left concerned we could see a 3 to 5 point drop in this category.

The final answer on Hastings will likely require the eyeball test once the trial games are underway. For now I think there is certainly some value here but I’ll remain on the fence about buying until I see a dress rehearsal trial game.

(REGULAR RYAN)

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