Rugby League


Canberra Raiders should stick with Jack Wighton at No.6: Ben Ikin

Former Queensland Origin playmaker Ben Ikin says the Raiders will reap the long-term benefits by persevering with Jack Wighton at five-eighth, but adds he's ''a way off'' nailing the position. 

Ikin, who commentated Canberra's 26-12 loss to Newcastle for Fox Sports on Sunday, urged the Raiders to resist the temptation for change despite their disorganisation in attack against the Knights. 

Canberra (2-4) have lost six straight games at home, and are desperate to erase the demons of last year's 68-4 loss to Melbourne when they host the Storm at Canberra Stadium on Easter Sunday. 

Wighton has shifted from centre to No.6 under new coach Ricky Stuart this season, while Terry Campese moved to halfback, and Ikin is convinced the Raiders' patience will eventually be rewarded. 

Young half Mitch Cornish has been influential in guiding Canberra's NSW Cup affiliate Mounties to the top of the table, but Ikin says Canberra is right to stick with Wighton. 

Before the season began, Ikin tipped Wighton and Roosters winger Daniel Tupou as the two young players he believed would explode this year. 


"Jack Wighton's just inching along and I can see the potential, but I still think he's a way off being the type of five-eighth they believe he can be, and that just comes with experience,'' Ikin said. 

"There's a stack of upside there. He's hasn't been at his best in that position, but he's still been relatively effective and he's playing in a side which has struggled with consistency. 

"The temptation would be to put him back in the centres where you know he's going to do a great job. 

"He's a tough young man, he runs and tackles hard and that's the part of his game you love. 

"That's why five-eighth will be the more difficult position to master, it's more about subtlety than toughness.''

Ikin said Wighton's play was more premeditated than instinctive, but he backed the 21-year-old to become less predictable over time. 

"He could balance his running and passing game a bit better,'' Ikin said. 

"When I watch him play, I can tell when he's going to pass and when he's going to run, if I can see that, so can the opposition defence.

"It's something Campo [Campese] has lost a bit because of injury, at his peak he'd take the ball to the line and he was as big a chance at throwing a cut-out pass as throwing a dummy. 

"That's the next step for Jack Wighton. When he runs, I get the sense he's made the decision independent of what the defensive line's doing. 

"For me now, most things look fairly telegraphed and that's just because he's young in the position at this level.

"He has to learn his craft, it's a difficult position to play well and it takes time.''

While the Raiders refute suggestions Anthony Milford played under duress, Ikin says the fullback, who played with his knee heavily strapped, looked hindered against Newcastle. 

"He did look hampered, he didn't look as quick or explosive,'' Ikin said. 

"Sometimes guys have to play injured and I still thought he had a red-hot go, he just wasn't as lightning quick or agile on his feet as he had been the first five weeks. 

"Still, a 95 per cent fit Anthony Milford is someone you'd want in your team.''

Campese is confident Canberra's attack will be crisper against Melbourne, as the Raiders look to avoid a third straight loss. 

"We've got a good combination, we just have to capitalise on that good ball as teams are getting better defensively,'' Campese said. 

"We still got four or five repeat sets, it's just one of those things. 

"I don't know what the answer is, we just have to go back to the drawing board and fix it up for Melbourne.''


NRL round seven: Canberra Raiders v Melbourne Storm at Canberra Stadium, 3pm

Tickets available from Ticketek