Jack Wighton knows he has to Jack Wighton to get back to his best.
“I just have to be me, I have to be Jack Wighton and not try to imitate anyone else,” Wighton said.
NSW five-eighth Jack Wighton at training this week.Credit:NRL Photos
“I just have to run the ball and enjoy my footy again.”
Wighton has played eight Origin games but will finally realise his dream of wearing his preferred No.6 jersey for the first time on Wednesday night as the Blues chase a series sweep.
The reigning Dally M Medallist and 2019’s Clive Churchill Medal winner has struggled this year, which has people wondering whether Canberra’s fall has been because of Wighton’s poor form, or Wighton’s poor form has been because of Canberra’s fall.
“We’ve had a lot go on at the club, last weekend wasn’t my best football, but I’ve still put my all in for the Raiders,” Wighton said. “Consistency is probably the biggest thing for me. I’ve been consistent the last few years but I’m missing a bit of that at the moment.”
The Dally M winner and the Raiders have done it tough this year.Credit:Getty
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart completely understood what Wighton meant when he said he wanted to get back to his natural game and told The Sun-Herald: “Jack is a unique five-eighth. I’ve often said to Jack he can’t base his game on other halves, he just needs to base his game on Jack Wighton’s strengths.
“There are a lot of kids who want to be Jack Wighton. I want Jack Wighton to be Jack Wighton, too.
“Our start to the season has affected a number of players in regards to consistency, and it’s something we’re trying to turn around for the back half of the season.
“I hope Jack gets a whole heap of confidence out of this series win, and now he’s starting in game three, it could have the desired effect for Jack and our club the rest of this season.”
Once Jarome Luai went down with a knee injury last weekend, the Blues did not hesitate naming Wighton as the new No.6, despite there being external support for bringing in Rabbitohs pair Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker.
Blues coach Brad Fittler backed Wighton and said via a Zoom call at the start of the week: “Jack is a whole-hearted bloke, at the moment it’s not working that well at the Canberra Raiders, so you start to question what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, so hopefully by game day Jack’s not questioning anything.”
The Raiders have faced plenty of off-field issues this season: Josh Papalii asked for a time out from the game, there was talk of star hooker Josh Hodgson being shopped around, as well as the messy split with George Williams. The halfback had asked for a release at the end of the year but was let go immediately, heading home to England and signing with Warrington.
At the start of the Origin series Wighton didn’t want to comment on the club’s issues, and has not changed his tune.
“I’m a big believer everyone has spoken too much in the media about everything, and too much got out,” Wighton said. “I’m a proud Canberran, and we’ve let ourselves down by letting too much get out. I’ll keep quiet. It caused a circus. It wasn’t going down the way it was and it was sad to see. But like I said, I’m not going to comment.”
Being forced to adjust to a new halfback following Williams’ departure has only helped Wighton quickly get his head around forging an on-field combination with new NSW halfback Mitchell Moses.
One simple instruction to the pair will be to get good early ball to their devastating centres Tom Trbojevic and Latrell Mitchell.
Wighton has a jam-packed few weeks with the birth of his third child, a boy, Kayce. Wighton was convinced he was having a third girl, and took a few days to land on a name, which was inspired by a character in the US drama Yellowstone.
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