NRL Rd 18 - Wests Tigers v Panthers
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JULY 17: Jackson Hastings of the Tigers looks dejected after the round 18 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Penrith Panthers at CommBank Stadium, on July 17, 2022, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Jackson Hastings brings a host of quality assets to the table for the Newcastle Knights, however it's what the halfback brings off the field that the struggling club needs the most maturity.

After being released by the Wests Tigers, Hastings' three-year deal with Newcastle could prove to be their most valuable signing in years, not only handing the club a quality half, but a leader, something they need now more than ever.

The 26-year-old will be one of the first to tell you that he wasn't where he needed to be mentally when he departed the NRL midway through the 2018 season, his ego outweighing his talent, eventually leading to player riffs and in-fighting that kicked him all the way to Salford.

Jackson Hastings

It was there, just a couple miles outside of Manchester, that Hastings made the leap from a 'talented yet misguided youngster' to a 'level-headed and mature halfback', winning the Super League's Dally M equivalent, the Man of Steel, as he learnt more than just football in his three-and-a-half year English stint.

While the club is yearning for direction on the football field, they need it badly off field as well as the team's leaders continually take the Knights down the wrong path.

Captain Kalyn Ponga was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he and Kurt Mann were kicked out of a Newcastle pub after being caught in the cubicles together whilst Ponga was sidelined with concussion symptoms, and within an hour of the club's heavy loss to Brisbane in Queensland.

The next day Bradman Best and Enari Tuala were handed one-game bans because they couldn't make the team bus in time.

NEWCASTLE, AUSTRALIA - JULY 22: Kalyn Ponga of the Knights receives attention after being tackled high by Matthew Lodge of the Roosters during the round 19 NRL match between the Newcastle Knights and the Sydney Roosters at McDonald Jones Stadium, on July 22, 2022, in Newcastle, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

The club won't make leaps forward until someone in the playing ranks holds other members of the group accountable for their actions, and that's exactly what Hastings will do.

The halfback stepped up when it mattered in 2022, alleviating pressure from Luke Brooks at times and admitting his own mistakes when they came and went, that sort of accountability has been high and dry in Newcastle for some time.

While Dave Klemmer was always considered a little too hot-headed to captain, the front-rower always led with his actions, and hurt after a loss, the sort of passion required to lift the club's standards, as opposed to a shoulder shrug and a big night in town to wash away another loss.

While Hastings will deliver try-assists and a calming effect to a frantic Knights' team on the pitch, it's his words away from it that will lead Newcastle into their next era.