Wighton repays the faith
Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker has praised fullback Jack Wighton for not throwing in the towel after producing a crucial play late in his side's 32-20 win over the Bulldogs despite an error-riddled first half.
The Raiders custodian came up with four errors in the opening hour and looked headed to match the six mistakes he produced in the golden point loss to the Dragons a fortnight ago.
But instead of dropping his head, Wighton persevered with his attacking mindset; a move that ultimately won his side the game.
Trailing by four points with 15 minutes remaining, the Raiders No.1 fielded a kick 30 metres from his own line, made an angled run to the left and threw the pass that sent winger Edrick Lee on his way for the all-important score-levelling try.
From there the hosts raced in two more tries to seal the win, but Croker said the credit had to go Wighton's way.
"We've got players in our side – and Jack's one of them – who you've just got to tell them to back themselves and they can come up with the plays like that," Croker said after the game.
"We spoke about it at half-time – I think it might have been Stick (Raiders coach Ricky Stuart) that said it – 'Jack you'll come out and win the game for us' and he probably did with that pass.
"We need Jack to back himself."
Stuart said he was willing to accept his fullback's errors because he knew the good would eventually outweigh the bad.
The Raiders mentor spoke with Wighton at the break and told him to block out the negative talk and just focus on doing what he does best instead.
"He cops so much…he gets so much criticism, and yeah he made a few errors, but he did some things out there that other players can't do," Stuart said.
"And that was one of the messages at half-time, 'Jack, don't listen to every other person that's in your head. Listen to me and you're going to be better off.'
"He makes some errors in games. He's making them to try to do the right thing by trying to execute correctly. He'll be fine."
While he could accept those errors, Stuart admitted he was growing tired of his side's inability to produce a consistent 80-minute performance.
The Raiders were slow out of the blocks on Sunday afternoon and would have been 10 points down at the break had it not been for a Joseph Leilua try on the stroke of half-time.
Having already squandered two half-time leads in 2016, Stuart said his team needed to address their occasional fadeouts if they wanted to compete with the top sides.
"We're never going to realise our full potential until we play for longer durations of the game," the frustrated coach said.
"All year we've been making it hard for ourselves at certain parts of the game and then having to climb back and find a number of points.
"Last week we were very good. We played for longer parts of the game and didn't give the opposition too much of an opportunity."
Stuart said it would take more than just inspirational speeches to get his side firing.
"It's alright for me sitting out there and giving them a couple of points," he said of his half-time talks.
"I'm a pretty realistic coach and I know how hard it out there. Sometimes you make an error and then another error creeps in and I understand that.
"But if we want to improve, if we want to be a better football team and realise our potential over the next eight to 10 weeks, we've got to play better for longer periods of the game."
This article first appeared on NRL.com