Jack Wighton will line up against Johnathan Thurston in round one. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Canberra Raiders youngster Jack Wighton has been compared with former Kangaroos captain Laurie Daley, but the now state coach has warned not to expect the 21-year-old to become the next ''Johnathan Thurston straight away''.
Daley has urged a patient approach as Wighton contemplates his switch to five-eighth, which will begin against the world's best No.6 Thurston in Townsville on Saturday night.
Daley, NSW Origin coach, has been a long-term admirer of Wighton's and endorsed him as a future Blues representative.
While Daley backed Wighton, pictured, to accept the challenge of the positional switch, he warned against placing too much pressure on Wighton and believes it could take up to two years to reach his peak as playmaker.
''I've got an enormous opinion of him,'' Daley said.
''I've said from day one that, everything being equal, he will get his chance at representative level.
''Everyone just assumes and expects we're going to see Jack Wighton go out there [on Saturday] and get a man-of-the-match performance, it doesn't always work like that.
''He's a terrific kid and we should be waiting and seeing, rather than expecting him to be Johnathan Thurston straight away.
''What he does on the weekend he'll be better for it, and we shouldn't put too much expectation on him early on.
''He's a guy who will handle anything and it may take him a couple of games, it may take him a while.
''He'll be a much better player in 18 months or two years, that's the scary thing because he's a really good player now.''
Daley has chosen Wighton in the Indigenous All Stars team and NSW Emerging Squad in the past, and was hugely influential in his selection for Country Origin last year in the centres.
Daley also began his career in the centres, before becoming one of the game's great five-eighths. He said it was a good grounding to serve an apprenticeship out wide before moving closer to the action.
''Playing a bit wider gives you an opportunity to understand what your outside backs want,'' he said.
''It's a big advantage because you are across a bit more what kind of ball to throw and when to run.''
Wighton's halves partner, Terry Campese, predicted last week the youngster could be an ideal Origin utility, as early as this year.
''I don't put a time frame on anyone, but he's a prodigious talent and one we've tracked for a while,'' Daley said.
''The toughest thing at six is obviously the added responsibility and being confident enough to make plays when you see it.
''Being so young, it obviously can be daunting, but you get more confidence as you go along and you begin to trust your ability.''
Daley advised Wighton to back his strong running game and not get distracted by a one-on-one battle with Thurston.
Wighton has signed with Canberra until the end of 2016 and Daley, a three-time Raiders premiership winner, was hopeful Canberra's young talent would stick together.
''They're on the verge of something very special," he said.
''They're a top-eight team this year and they have some of the best young talent, hopefully they see that and stay committed to each other. That's what we did when we were coming through, it means something playing for the club and hopefully these guys have the same bond as we did.''