I want to own that pressure: Hastings
Roosters half Jackson Hastings wants to not only personally turn around the club's goal-kicking woes but also be the type of player – a la Johnathan Thurston or Cooper Cronk – who can be relied upon in the highest of high-pressure situations.
After a shock 0-4 start to the year, in which missed goals were crucial in narrow losses to the Raiders in Round 2 and Manly in Round 4, Hastings said he is ready to "own" that responsibility moving forward.
Rookie fullback Latrell Mitchell started the year as the goal kicker but has landed just three from eight, while hard-working lock Sio Siua Taukeiaho has also been trialled for a one from three return. Hastings – who was battling niggling injuries to start the year preventing him from kicking – has now taken over and landed one from his first two attempts.
The team missed all four conversions in a golden point loss to Canberra and landed just one from four in a two-point loss to Manly.
"We should have won two of the four but as we sit we're 0-4 and we have to keep working hard at training, turn up on game day and get the result done no matter what the situation," Hastings said.
"I just had a couple of niggles [to start the year that stopped me kicking] but in saying that we've had a lot of boys kicking over the summer so there's no excuse for the missed goals, it doesn't matter who kicks for us we've got to start kicking goals, it's as simple as that.
"It's let us down two games, we missed all four against Canberra and only kicked one on the weekend [against Manly] plus a penalty goal. We're not making life easy for ourselves but we are working hard on it. The goal kickers we've had haven't kicked on an NRL stage before in front of a lot of people. It'll come and once it does there's a lot of positive signs for us."
Hastings expects to take over the goal kicking duties full time from this point on.
"I want to own it," he said.
"I really want to own it, being the kicker, it's something I've done my whole life. I've seen a lot of young blokes kicking in the NRL, Moses Mbye and those blokes really putting their hands up and owning that and it's something I want to do."
The humungous big screens at Allianz Stadium that sit behind the goalposts can't help in those high pressure situations when a kicker is lining up a tough shot, but Hastings laughed off suggestions that seeing your own face projected to the size of a city block was a put-off.
"The big screens here at Allianz are massive so you do see yourself – I'm not really one that wants to see my face too close up because it shows every little bit of detail!" he laughed.
"In all seriousness though you've got to just block it out, you've got enough going on, you've got the pressure of kicking the goal, you've got the fans hammering you and your head on the big screen and the expectation to kick it. It is pressure I guess but if you kicking you've got to just relax. We've got to start nailing some and hopefully the results start going our way."
It's not just the pressure of goal kicking that Hastings wants to absorb – the talented young playmaker is eyeing off what has been achieved by some of the game's modern-day greats.
"You saw Anthony Milford the other night [kick a match-winning golden point field goal against the Cowboys from 40 metres out] and he obviously ate that pressure up," Hastings said.
"I've seen 'JT' [Johnathan Thurston] do it, I've seen Cooper Cronk do it. If you're playing halfback it comes with the territory to eat that pressure up and deliver for your team. Obviously I've got a long way to go if I ever get to those halves but it's something I aspire to be. They've set the benchmark really high those boys and that's something the rest of us are chasing."
Hastings is certainly on the right track after a mature and composed performance in the narrow loss to Manly that was one of the best individual efforts of his young career to date but he was reluctant to give himself a rap after his side's 0-4 start to the year.
"Yeah I'm reasonably happy [with my form] but not too happy with the result but it's been a work in progress from day one," he said.
"There's been parts of games in all the games funny enough, even the game we got beat by 40, there were still little bits of the game I was happy with but we've obviously got a lot to work on. It's just been a stepping stone every game, I've just tried to get better and try to get that control of the team.
"It was there on the weekend [against Manly], unfortunately we didn't get the win but just want to build every week.
"I think we've improved little bits every game. Obviously leaking 22 points is too much but there were areas of our defence that were really good on the weekend, I thought our middles were very good, they laid a good platform which made my job easier. Everyone's improving. It's only Round 4, obviously we have to start picking up some wins and that's clear and we know that but I think we're building towards a good victory soon."
This article originally featured on NRL.COM