Wighton relishing life on the centre stage
Jack Wighton has been a shining light for the Raiders after shifting back to his natural position in the centres, with the prodigiously talented youngster emerging as a possible bolter for the NSW Blues according to team mates.
Having not played in the number six jersey since he was a junior, the 21 year old made a solid fist of playing five-eighth in the first nine games of the year however Wighton has been a revelation for the Green Machine since returning to the centres.
And his statistics highlight this.
Since reverting back to his natural position, the Country Origin representative has registered some marvellous statistics in his three appearances: three tries, three try assists, two line break assists and an average of two line breaks, five tackle breaks, 123 metres and 13 well-timed tackles per match.
By way of comparison, NSW’s centre for Game 1, Michael Jennings, fails to match Wighton in any facet of play other than defence in his past three encounters for the Roosters.
Jennings has registered two tries and averages one tackle break and 13 tackles in his past three appearances for the tricolours.
“Personally I think that Jack has been great for us all year but he’s really gone up another level since moving back to the centres, he’s been awesome for us there over the last three weeks,” said centre partner Jarrod Croker.
“Jack had a blinder against the Panthers and the Cowboys and was again strong for us against the Roosters.
“It’s fantastic to see him playing with some confidence and running the ball freely. We know what type of player he can be and hopefully his form just continues to roll on for him this weekend. Who knows what could happen from there.”
What Croker is eluding to is the fact that there is a vacant centre position in the NSW backline following the injury sustained by Josh Morris.
After his stellar performance for Country coupled with his exemplary performances in the number four jersey for the Raiders, two senior team mates who have previously donned the famous sky blue jersey have backed Wighton to succeed if selected by Laurie Daley.
“The way he handled himself in Country, I might be biased, but in my view he was man of the match,” Captain Terry Campese said. “He's a great defender and a great ball runner, so if he did get selected there, he'd definitely do a good job for the Blues."
“You only have to look at what Jack's done for us in the centres the last few weeks - he's been strong in defence and incredibly dangerous in attack, he'd be ideal for Origin,” added eight time Blues representative Brett White.
“I know a lot of names get thrown up during Origin and people say this person and that person, but I truly believe Jack could add a lot to the NSW side in the absence of Morris.”
Whilst the man himself does not want to rule out returning to the five-eighth role in the future, he admits he is relishing life back in the centres.
“It’s been good to be back in the centres, I’m really enjoying it,” Wighton said. “I did enjoy the challenge of playing five-eighth and I would like to go back there in the future but at the moment I’m enjoying being able to relax in the centres and do my thing without the pressure of directing the team around the park.
“We had to make some sort of change to get our season rolling for us again so there are no hard feelings there. I’ve got every faith in Ricky’s decisions and I’ll do whatever is best for the team anyway.
“I probably play my worst footy when I try and over think things so I’ve just tried to concentrate on doing the little things right and letting my natural game come out.
“Josh, Mitch and Campo have got the job of directing the team around at the moment so I’m enjoying getting my hands on the ball and concentrating on my running game and making good decisions in defence on the edge because there’s a lot of good centres out there.”
As for his name getting thrown into the ring as a potential bolter for Origin?
“[My form in the centres] is good timing I guess [in regards to representative selection], that’s always been a dream of mine and I’d take the opportunity with both hands if I got it, but I’m just concentrating on getting the Raiders back on top. That’s where my heads at.”
Watch out Broncos.