Jackson Hastings can't wait to be booed again!
Wigan half-back Jackson Hastings is relishing the prospect of being booed once more as Super League prepares for the return of fans.
Along with the rest of British sport, Super League was halted in March 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic and, since resuming five months later, all matches have been played behind closed doors.
With restrictions eased from Monday as part of Government plans to gradually bring the country out of lockdown, all but one of the six round-six fixtures have been pushed back from the weekend to enable clubs to play in front of limited crowds.
Hastings, one of the game's entertainers, is excited by the opportunity to play in front of an audience at the Leigh Sports Village, even though it will be made up of around 2,000 partisan home fans.
"It's going to be a bit weird actually because we're used to no-one being able to boo you or chant your name or sing," said the 25-year-old Australian who was named Man of Steel at the end of his first season in Super League in 2019.
"That's the one thing that I love about this country and the sport inside of it, the fans and how passionate they are and how they get involved in the game.
"In Australia it's a completely different atmosphere so for me to come over from that side of the world and play in front of these sort of fans is great.
"I can't wait to have them back singing, either for or against us.
"It's what we've all waited for, it's why we play this game, to make our fans proud of whatever team we're from."
Centurions coach John Duffy says a derby with Wigan is the perfect way to mark the return of fans and he is hoping they can help cheer his side to a first win of the season.
"Speak to any Leigh fan, this is the one they want to be at," said Duffy. "It's great for us to have them as the first game.
"It'll be fantastic for the new players who haven't seen the fans yet. They'll be the extra man, as they always are, and they're being spread around the stadium so they can give it to the Wigan players from every angle for us!"
The new regulations allow for crowds at small outdoor venues of up to 4,000 or 50 per cent of capacity while up to 10,000 fans or 25 per cent of capacity are being permitted at larger outdoor venues.
So there will be 4,000 at St Helens and Warrington for the visits of Salford and Huddersfield respectively while Hull are gearing up for a 5,500-strong crowd - made up of 5,000 members and 500 corporate guests and partners - for the game against Catalans Dragons.
The Black and Whites can expect a rapturous reception following their Challenge Cup win over Wigan but coach Brett Hodgson is urging his players not to lose their focus.
"We've had that conversation today, that fans won't win us the game," he said. "They will help if we're good enough to be in the fight. I'm looking forward to giving them something to cheer."
It will be Hodgson's first match in front of spectators as a head coach while St Helens coach Kristian Woolf, now in his second season in Super League, has experienced just three home games in front of fans.
"Obviously we've missed the fans," Woolf said. "I can't wait for them to create that atmosphere.
"It's part of what makes footy really enjoyable for the players. They've done an outstanding job, the way they've gone about their business, but at the end of the day they want to do it in front of our fans and their families."
Castleford have sold out their 3,600 tickets for their home game against Hull KR and Daryl Powell says the return of fans is not before time.
"It hasn't been great, there isn't much soul with a stadium with no-one in," he said.
"I think we've taken fans for granted over the years but I don't think we'll ever do that again."