Great Britain Lions are arguably the most iconic team in rugby league with the prestige and honour of receiving a call-up something that is at the pinnacle of many players careers.
For many born more recently though, they’ve had limited opportunity to wear that iconic shirt due to the home nations separating in a bid to grow the game across the UK and Ireland.
However, the Lions returned for the first time in 12 years back in 2019 for a tour of New Zealand and Papua New Guinea – with Wayne Bennett leading GB in matches against the Kiwis (twice), Tonga and PNG.
Featuring as part of that tour was Australian-born Jackson Hastings, who has English heritage on his mother’s side of the family, in a selection that split supporters.
As it turned out Hastings and the Lions would lose all four matches on a disastrous tour which ended in an embarrassing defeat against Papua New Guinea in Port Moresby.
Hastings has since spoken with James Graham on his podcast, The Bye Round, about his decision and pride in playing for Great Britain on that tour, that despite backlash from fans for his selection and performances.
“I went to England and played against Leeds Rhinos and Kev Sinfield had a little bit to do with England at the time and I just said to him that if the chance ever came up that I’d be doing it for the right reasons,” said Hastings.
He continued: “I said ‘I don’t want you to consider me if you don’t think I deserve to play for England or if you thought I was doing it for the wrong reasons’.
“I had many discussions with Kev, someone that I respect greatly within the game and if you spoke to him I’m pretty confident that he would agree that I was doing it for the right reasons. I cared about my decision, what it would entail and what I was giving up to do it.”
Hastings had earlier spoken about sacrificing his Australia eligibility for a chance to represent England Knights, something that ultimately never happened, but he referenced his Nan and her national pride being a major influence.
“For me it was deeper than that and representing the people that love where they’re from. My Nan was so proud that she was English, it was unbelievable. She was so patriotic and we had a conversation as a family one day about what I wanted to do.”
Hastings was ultimately selected off the back of his incredible season with Salford and played in all four of the games.
“To get the phone call, after we’d just lost the Grand Final, from Jamie Peacock to say I’d been selected – I cried.
“It was a feeling that was a weird thing, I felt numb because my nan wasn’t around to see it and I was so disappointed in that.”