Season Review: Jack Wighton
Positionally, he was chopped and changed more than Elizabeth Taylor’s list of husbands, but no matter where Jack Wighton played in 2014 he more than justified the massive raps that have been laid on him both internally at the Raiders and externally by representative selectors.
After breaking into the NRL in 2012, Wighton has alternated between wing and centre and has emerged as a potential future representative star in the process.
Despite his prowess in the outside backs, Coach Ricky Stuart was eager to test out Wighton at five-eighth during pre-season; the position he flourished in as a junior.
One of the most enviably naturally talented athletes at the club, Wighton excelled in the role during the pre-season and throughout the trials and as such Stuart partnered him in the halves with Terry Campese for Round 1.
Wighton played a total of nine games in the number six jersey until Stuart reverted the prodigious talent back to the centres following two heavy back-to-back losses.
Stuart refused to concede that Wighton’s experiment as a five-eighth in the NRL was a failure but conceded that at this stage of his career, Wighton is far more comfortable running freely out wide than steering the side around the park.
Wighton is frequently compared to a young Laurie Daley, so the 21 year old may end up in the number six jersey again in the not too distant future.
Whilst playing five-eighth, Wighton was ironically selected at centre for the Country Origin side for the second successive year.
Wighton was again highly impressive in the encounter despite being one of the youngest players on the field.
Given his performance, and his form for the Raiders, Wighton was called into the NSW Blues camp as a shadow player for Josh Morris.
Morris eventually recovered from his injury and was fit to take the field however the mere fact that Wighton’s name was mentioned as a capable replacement in such a crucial game is a strong indication of how highly Daley and other representative selectors rate Wighton.
Playing in the centres for the Raiders, the side got just what they expected out of Wighton; a constant and instinctive attacking threat on the right hand edge and the defensive stability of one of the toughest and most technically correct defenders in the team.
What wasn’t expected however was that Wighton would finish the year with another positional change, this time at fullback!
Wighton had only played fullback on one other occaision, his NYC debut when he was 17, although he did score an amazing four tries on that day.
Raiders fans were glad they did get to see Wighton play fullback though with his form at the back seeing him emerge as a strong candidate to fill the club’s number one jersey on a full-time basis next year following the exit of Anthony Milford.
Whether he was playing five-eighth, centre or fullback Wighton continued his development significantly in 2014 and improved on every single statistic from 2013.
Wighton’s fantastic season, particularly over the second half of the year, resulted in the Orange CYMS’ junior being included in the initial Four Nation’s squad for Australia; another indication of bigger things to come for Wighton.
Off the field, Wighton is awaiting the birth of his first child and has recently begun a carpentry apprenticeship which he will continue next season.
Average Minutes: 78
Try Assists: 6
Try Saves: 0
Line Breaks: 9
Line Break Assists: 5
Tackle Breaks: 35
Average Metres: 121.6
Average Tackles: 13.9
Kick: 58 kicks