Past disappointment is forgotten as Wighton thrives in All Stars camp
Thursday 7 February 2013 7:00 PM
As a 16 year old, Jack Wighton had his heart broken when he missed out on selection in the NSW Koori team that took on the QLD Murris before a State of Origin fixture.
Wighton has since put aside that disappointment behind him and his work hard has paid off by achieving arguably his greatest career moment to date; making the Indigenous All Stars side.
“I tried out for the NSW Kooris team a few years ago and was pretty disappointed when I didn’t make the team,” said Wighton.
“I’m very proud of my Indigenous heritage so I was looking forward to getting out there and playing for the Kooris but it wasn’t to be.
“It sucked at the time but I guess it made me work harder to improve as a player.”
After debuting in the NRL last year, the Orange CYMS junior is now starting to reap the benefits of his hard work and making the most of his boundless natural talent.
“Making the Indigenous All Stars side is definitely one of the proudest moments of my career so far. It’s been unreal and I’m having an awesome time in camp with the boys,” said Wighton.
“I was pretty nervous when I first found out I got selected but I’ve been rooming with Birdy [Greg Bird] and he’s been really good for me and he’s calmed my nerves a lot.
“Laurie Daley’s also been really good for me and he’s got me enjoying the week’s activities and learning a lot at training.
“I’ve been training at centre and wing and it’s a bit unbelievable running off players that I idolised like JT [Jonathon Thurston] and GI [Greg Inglis]. I have to pinch myself sometimes to actually believe I’m out there with them.”
Of course, the All Stars fixture is more than just a game and Wighton has thoroughly enjoyed immersing himself in the multitude of community initiatives that have taken place during the week leading up to the game.
“I’ve loved getting out to all the schools and spending time with the kids,” enthused Wighton.
“At the start of the All Stars week, the Indigenous guys went to a camp hosted by Dean Widders where we learnt more about our cultural background, the importance of education and of being a good role model to kids.
“It was really good and I’ve been trying to take what I’ve learnt from there out to all of our community visits. We went to a school in Redcliffe yesterday and went to a waterpark with some junior Indigenous kids later on in the day.”
For a player just 20 years of age, this will be the biggest crowd Wighton has ever played in front of but if the prodigiously talented youngster needs any advice, he need not look further than Raiders team mate Joel Thompson.
Thompson was a similar age when he made his All Stars debut back in 2010 and admits that he was quite shy and nervous in the camp leading up to the fixture.
“It was a pretty surreal feeling walking into a camp with great players like Thurston, Prince and Wendell Sailor but everybody in the squad is really supportive of you so you quickly come out of your shell,” explained Thompson.
“Jack was a bit nervous at first but I’ve got no doubt that he’ll perform on game day. He’s a freak of a player and I personally just love playing footy with him. He’ll be fine and he’ll make a few people stand up and take notice of him.”
None more so than the selectors of that NSW Under 16s Koori side all those years ago.
The All Stars match kicks off this Saturday at 7:30pm at Suncorp Stadium.