Rugby League


Jack Wighton regrets reaction after Raiders loss

Canberra playmaker Jack Wighton wants to assure Raiders fans he and teammates were hurting badly after last weekend's 54-18 hammering by the Manly Sea Eagles, regretful for a post on social media that has irritated some supporters.

Reacting to negativity online about his selection in the centres for NSW Country, Wighton confronted his "haters" by posting on Instagram after Sunday's loss: "One week they love you. Next week they hate you. Both weeks I got paid."

Wighton deleted the post that night and was cautioned by the Raiders about reacting to criticism, but Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says he's taking a "big picture" approach and will continue to back to the 21-year-old in his positional switch to five-eighth.

Wighton has been under enormous scrutiny since his shift from the outside backs to the halves, a role he hasn't played regularly since Raiders Under 20s three years ago.

Just a week before the Sea Eagles slaughter, Wighton had celebrated Canberra's last-ditch win against Melbourne with a series of impromptu backflips caught on cameras.

But Wighton said he was hurting after the Manly loss and, just 35 matches into his NRL career, is still learning to cope with the pressure of the new role.


"There was a lot of hurt going around in camp, that was our first real flogging for the year,'' Wighton said. "We were all hurting together just as much as our supporters were, because we don't go out there to play or disappoint, we go there to do our best.

"It's slow and steady, but I'm learning something new every week and that's what I wanted to get out of it [the move to five-eighth]. We had a very bad night against Manly on the weekend, but we'll bounce back from that. I love the challenges ... it's a little bit hard at times.

"It's something I have to work on a bit more, getting my confidence up. I guess that will come with experience."

Stuart backed Wighton to slot straight back into the centres for Country, but says he remains Canberra's best long-term option at six.

"No one likes criticism," Stuart said. "A lot of scrutiny has been lumped on Jack, especially from people hiding behind keyboards. He didn't deal with it the right way and we’ve talked about that.

"But I'm very happy and comfortable with what Jack's doing. You could put Jack anywhere from fullback to lock and he'd still be a strong footballer. For the balance of our squad he's playing five-eighth.

"I'm looking at the big picture of the Canberra Raiders. I'm looking at the success of this club over the course of the next few years. The more you do the same old thing, the more you'll get the same old result."

Wighton is viewed as such a promising prospect by NSW selectors, he has retained his spot in the centres for Country despite not playing there this season. He was picked ahead of teammate Jarrod Croker, one of Canberra's best this season.

"He said 'Congratulations and all the best', as good mates do," Wighton said of Croker.

"Jarrod Croker's been unbelievable this season, his defence and talk, he's the one that makes my job easier.

"I was stoked to be picked in the team again, very surprising, but I'll take it as it comes ... I'm excited as all buggery."

Wighton said he was happy to play anywhere positionally, but baulked a little at suggestions of being a backrow utility."

"I need to put on a few more kilos, but I wouldn't say no to any position to help the team out."

In other news, two-time Raiders player-of-the-year Shaun Fensom has finally been recognised by NSW Country selectors, called up as 18th to join the squad which includes Canberra teammates Paul Vaughan and Josh McCrone.