Jack Wighton on the charge for the Raiders. Picture: Getty Images
Jack Wighton on the charge for the Raiders. Picture: Getty Images

Monday Buzz: Ricky’s rare praise for Raiders star

A year ago, Jack Wighton's career was on the rugby league scrapheap.

Fast forward 12 months and Raiders coach Ricky Stuart is comparing him to his old halves partner, superstar five-eighth Laurie Daley.

It's a massive statement but not that ridiculous considering the manner in which Wighton outplayed Queensland and Kangaroos five-eighth Cameron Munster in Melbourne on Saturday.

Ten runs and 91m in a final is big time for a five-eighth.

"He's the closest thing to Laurie Daley outside of Laurie's sisters," Stuart said.

"He tackles like him, runs like him and competes like him.

"That's why I love the kid … he's such a competitor.

"I'm not saying he's got as much ability as Laurie but they're so similar."

Wighton's switch to five-eighth this year has been a coaching masterstroke.

Stuart tried him in the ­number six jersey when Wighton first arrived in the national capital in 2014.

"He didn't have the confidence or maturity to handle it back then," Stuart said.

"His game has really grown this year and playing Origin has really helped in his ­development."

 

Jack Wighton has been superb since switching to five-eighth for the Raiders. Picture: AAP
Jack Wighton has been superb since switching to five-eighth for the Raiders. Picture: AAP

 

Yet 12 months ago it could have been so different.

His drunken assault of three men in a wild rampage on the street outside a Can­berra nightclub could have been not just a career ender but led to time in jail.

It was made worse, and more damaging for the NRL and Canberra Raiders, when shocking footage was released in public. Yet all along the Raiders stuck by him and it's been a remarkable turnaround.

"There was never a chance we'd cut him," Stuart said.

"The board backed him 100 per cent.

"We don't condone what he did but we supported him because it was a mistake all young men can make.

 

Jack Wighton celebrates a try for the Raiders earlier this year. Picture: AAP
Jack Wighton celebrates a try for the Raiders earlier this year. Picture: AAP

 

"His comeback from that has been all his own doing. He's made the right choices.

"You can get all the help in the world but you've still got to do it yourself."

Wighton is now locked in a fascinating battle with the likes of Munster and Luke Keary to be named Kangaroos five-eighth at the end of the season.

It's such a long way from the ACT magistrates court.

Working in Wighton's favour, especially for a bench position, is his versatility in being able to play five-eighth, centre or fullback.

He can do it even better than the likes of Kalyn Ponga and Latrell Mitchell.

The remainder of the finals series will determine whether he gets there.

 

 

Stream every match of the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial and start streaming instantly >

 

Stream every match of the 2019 NRL Telstra Premiership Finals Series before the Grand Final Live & On-Demand on KAYO SPORTS. Get your 14 day free trial and start streaming instantly >

News Corp Australia


Free solar roll-out scheme opens in New South Wales

premium_icon Free solar roll-out scheme opens in New South Wales

Here’s what you need to know about this trial and what's the catch.

NEAR MISS: The reaction video that could save a life

premium_icon NEAR MISS: The reaction video that could save a life

Watching this devastated reaction video to the end could save a life