Wigan Warriors head coach Adrian Lam insists Jackson Hastings will remain fully committed to the club this season after his NRL return was finally sealed.
The Australian half-back will join Wests Tigers on a two-year deal at the end of the 2021 campaign, bringing to an end speculation about his future beyond this season.
His second year at the DW Stadium will be his final one but head coach Lam has backed the 25-year-old’s decision to quit the Warriors.
Lam said: “I’m really pleased for Jackson and I’m glad that it’s out there and sorted so that we can move forward as a club and Jackson can move forward.
“When he first told me there was some sadness there because he’s obviously a player I brought to the club and someone who’s been great for Super League.
“Last year, and so far this year, he has been outstanding, but Jackson has always wanted to go back and play in the NRL.
“He’s been quite passionate about that and we’ve been supportive of that.
“But he’s given his absolute all for this club and I’m just proud of him that he was strong in his conviction.
“He’s made his decision and we’ve still got this year with him, so hopefully we can, collectively as a group, get some success together.”
Hastings arrived in England in July 2018 with his reputation and NRL career in tatters.
Discarded by Sydney Roosters and then thrown out of Manly Sea Eagles following a drunken scrap with team-mate Daly Cherry-Evans, Salford proved Hastings’ salvation.
He was the fulcrum of their dramatic rise in 2019 but, when Wigan came calling, he accepted the challenge.
Hastings helped the Warriors to the Super League Grand Final last season, where they lost in heartbreaking fashion after Jack Welsby’s dramatic late try.
He returned home to Australia during the off-season to spend time with family before arriving back in the UK ahead of the new campaign.
Lam added: “His performances here in Super League over the last couple of years, winning Man of Steel, have been outstanding.
“If he wants to go back home to Australia to play in the NRL, and that’s his dream, then good luck to him.
“We’re very supportive of that and anyone who has a dream they want to chase, I’m always supportive of.
“I talk to Jackson nearly every day and in quarantine, he had some issues there with family, so in Australia he will be back closer to them, which is nice for him and his family.
“He spoke to our players before the announcement came out today and let them know that they will see in his actions that he’s here and he’s 100% committed.
“I think the players understand his situation. Jackson spoke quite clearly and I think we’re in a good place.
“He told me the news in my office and he said ‘look Lammy, I’ve made a decision, I want to chase my dream and go back home to play in the NRL. I’ve signed a two-year deal at the Tigers’.
“I was a little bit sad, as you would be, but I said ‘I’m really pleased and happy for you, you’ve earned a chance to go back and prove yourself to everyone there. Good on you’.”
Wigan have a ready-made replacement in homegrown scrum-half Harry Smith but Hastings’ departure will free up an overseas quota spot and sizeable salary cap space.
Smith has just signed a new four-year deal at the Warriors and Lam said: “That’s great news about Harry – the whole squad is over the moon about it.
“He’s loved by all the players and will play a big part at the club in the future.
“In regards to replacing Jackson Hastings, it’s a decision the club will be made in the near future.
“It’s just happened, so we need to sit down and discuss how we can move forward.
“You have to do your due diligence but it’s clear a lot of players coming to the UK would love to come to Wigan.
“I’m sure Kris Radlinski will get a knock on the door every day for the next six months.
“We can't dwell on the fact Jackson won’t be here; we’re excited that he’s moving, let’s make that clear.
“But this club is always bigger than one player and that will always be the case.”
Lam revealed winger Dom Manfredi (hand) and captain Tommy Leuluai (sore sternum) will be assessed ahead of Thursday’s visit of Castleford Tigers.
Lam confirmed star full-back Bevan French will make his first appearance of the season but England centre Oliver Gildart (groin) could miss out again.