Salford’s Australian playmaker Jackson Hastings has been crowned English Super League’s Man of Steel while Gold Coast Titans’ new incoming mentor, Justin Holbrook, is coach of the year.
The 23-year-old former Sydney Roosters and Manly half-back, who has played a key role in the Red Devils’ march to a maiden English grand final, was unveiled on Sunday in the new-look Super League awards night.
Hastings, who is the first Salford winner of an award that was first presented in 1977, was selected through a new system based on points awarded on a weekly basis by a specially-chosen panel of former players.
He was level with Warrington’s former Penrith and Canberra stand-off Blake Austin when the votes were closed off to the public after round 22 and he went on to produce a strong end to the season to help Salford claim a third-place finish.
Also on the five-man short list were ex-Penrith Panther and North Queensland Cowboy Lachlan Coote (St Helens), Liam Watts (Castleford) and George Williams (Wigan).
The prestigious award completes a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for Hastings, who arrived in England under a cloud in July 2018 following a series of off-field issues.
He has turned around his life in such spectacular fashion that he quickly became a much sought-after player and he will join Wigan on a two-year contract after Saturday’s grand final against St Helens.
Hastings’ boss Ian Watson lost out in the quest to be named coach of the year to another Australian in Justin Holbrook, who guided St Helens to the League Leaders’ Shield for the second-successive season and will be hoping to bow out with the title at Old Trafford as he prepares to return to the NRL with the Gold Coast Titans.
The Saints, who finished a record 16 points ahead of their nearest rivals Wigan, also provided the young player of the year in forward Matty Lees, who got the nod ahead of Jake Trueman (Castleford) and Morgan Smithies (Wigan).
The Woman of Steel award went to Leeds half-back Courtney Hill, a Australian former cricketer.
Hill, 32, the former Queensland Fire and Brisbane Heat fast bowler, topped a poll of votes by her fellow players.
Hastings, who was the English Rugby League Writers and Broadcasters’ Association player of the year, was named top entertainer in a fans vote, while the Ward Hadaway Spirit of Super League award was presented to Leeds forward Jamie Jones-Buchanan as recognition of his sportsmanship and respect from his peers.