It hasn’t been the NRL return Jackson Hastings was hoping for.

After a successful move to England that culminated in multiple Super League Grand Final appearances and the 2019 Man of Steel award, it seemed that the time was right for the 26-year-old to return to the NRL with Wests Tigers.

While he was initially brought in to play as a utility, Hastings has spent the entirety of his first season at the Tigers in the halves – until this week.

Interim coach Brett Kimmorley has named Hastings to play at lock this weekend – a role he hasn’t played in either hemisphere during his first-grade career. It’s a move that could have further ramifications for the already dire situation at the club.

According to The Daily Telegraph, club insiders claim Hastings is unsettled by the switch, given he’s been one of the Tigers’ most consistent players this season.

But according to Hastings’ manager Sam Ayoub, nothing could be further from the truth.

“Jackson’s not the sort of player to complain about anything, as much as his preference would be to play halfback,” Ayoub told the Daily Telegraph.

“He’ll play where he’s selected. There’s no issue and anyone who suggests otherwise doesn’t have a clue.”

Hastings is also off-contract next season, and the next few weeks could determine how likely he is to consider his options come November 1. There are already reports of tentative interest from the Bulldogs, who are still seeking a permanent halves partner for Matt Burton.

Hastings is just one of three players causing selection headaches for the Tigers. Luke Brooks a constant feature in the halves despite moving between halfback and five-eighth and even being on the cusp of being dropped just a few weeks ago.

Adam Doueihi has also been seen as a long-term halves option and will return to partner Brooks in just his fourth game back from injury.

Meanwhile reports have also emerged this week that the Tigers are considering a bid for Mitch Moses to return – which would only complicate the halves issue further.

Despite all the speculation, Hastings has been a model of maturity throughout.

“All three of us want to play in the halves, that’s no secret,” he said prior to last week’s game against Parramatta.

“I feel sorry for the coaches picking the team each week. I’m fighting for my future, as are the rest of the players.

“Luke (Brooks) has been a cornerstone of the club for so many years and he’s worn the flak for all of us. He’s someone I love to put my arm around.”

While the future remains uncertain, it will be a baptism of fire in the 13 for Hastings this week as the Tigers take on the ladder-leading Panthers in a top vs bottom clash.

Though the Panthers are expected to be without the majority of their Origin contingent including Nathan Cleary, they will still start the game as heavy favourites, given the poor form and host of other issues that have recently engulfed the Tigers.