Newcastle Knights recruit Jackson Hastings has addressed the fiery confrontation with his former Wests Tigers teammate Tommy Talau after Sunday's gutsy win at Leichhardt Oval. The Knights hung on for a drama-filled 14-12 win, despite losing Kalyn Ponga to concussion inside two minutes and seeing Jacob Saifiti sent off for a high tackle midway through the second half.
Hastings' tasted victory on his NRL return to Leichhardt, having been traded for former Newcastle enforcer David Klemmer during the off-season. However, it was his tackle on Talau in the first half - that ruled his former teammate out of the remainder of the match - that sparked a heated confrontation after the match.
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Talau failed his HIA and suffered a broken nose after a high shot from Hastings, moments before Asu Kepaoa crossed for the home side's opening try. Hastings said he had no intention of injuring his former teammate when interviewed on Fox League after the game.
“I honestly didn’t think I got him but he’s bleeding so obviously I did, I’m really sorry to Tommy and I’ll say sorry to him after this, it was a pure accident, there was no malice in it,” Hastings said. “He came at me and was well within his rights after getting hit like that. So full apologies to Tommy, it was an accident and I’m just glad to get the win and try to stop a try.”
After the on-field interview, Hastings approached Talau to again offer his apologies. However, a clearly angry Talau was not interested and could be seen pushing the Knights halfback away, before Klemmer came over to back up his Tigers teammate by pushing Hastings away.
“You can see Tommy Talau goes up to Jackson Hastings after the interview he just had with us, pushes him in the chest,” Braith Anasta said on the Fox League coverage. “Klemmer comes up afterwards. The Tigers not too happy with Jackson at all. Not sure if that was warranted or called for. Klemmer giving him an absolute serve. Tensions are high.”
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) March 12, 2023
Jackson Hastings understands Tommy Talau's frustration
Hastings explained afterwards that he was merely trying to say sorry to Talau for the tackle that ruled him out of the remainder of the match. The Newcastle half said he understood and accepted Talau's frustrations and the involvement of Klemmer.
“I just tried to do the right thing at the end of the game by going up to say sorry, in the heat of the battle he was still angry, which I fully appreciate,” Hastings said. “No one wants to get hit in the head and they ruled him out for the game too, so I am remorseful, there was no intent. I can see why he would be frustrated.
“I had no issue with Tommy’s reaction. I would be pretty filthy myself.” He added about Klemmer's reaction: “He is renowned for being a great teammate and he stuck up for his teammate”.
Newcastle's gutsy two-point win came at a big cost, with superstar captain Ponga suffering another concussion after a 2022 season that was blighted by head knocks. The Queenslander has now suffered four head knocks in the last 10 months but Knights coach Adam O'Brien wouldn't say if his captain would face more time on the sidelines.
"I've seen him make that tackle 1000 times over the summer, so I'm not too concerned around that," O'Brien said. "It's too early to say but we'll just follow the protocols.
"We gave him the summer off, he had eight games off last season, he has some extended breaks. He obviously won't play (against the Dolphins) because we've got a five-day turnaround. He was cleared to play in the last two games last year and we chose to not play him."
Newcastle also lost hooker Jayden Brailey to concussion in a brutal contest with the Tigers, with both players set to be sidelined for the round three match against high-flying newcomers, the Dolphins. The Knights may look to Tyson Gamble to continue filling in for Ponga at five-eighth after he set up Dominic Young and Lachlan Fitzgibbon for two of the visitors' three tries for the match.
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