Rugby League


Rookie Wighton survives tough initiation

As far as initiations go, they don't come much tougher than asking a teenager to stop Manly hard man Steve Matai.

But after surviving a searching defensive test at Brookvale Oval, Raiders young gun Jack Wighton is determined to rediscover the dynamic attack which made him a Toyota Cup star.

In his first NRL match at centre, Wighton was heavily targetted early by Manly, who were desperate to give Matai as many one-on-one chances as possible. But the 19-year-old held firm against the seasoned New Zealand international, making 26 tackles and missing just two.

Early in the first half when Manly put Canberra's defence under severe pressure, Wighton made several good reads which were crucial in keeping the Raiders in the game.

However, after starting his NRL career this year on the wing, he said it would take some time before he adjusts to the higher workload.

''I was out on my feet. I don't know if they were targetting me, but they sent a fair bit of traffic at me in that first half,'' Wighton said.


''I always had to be on my toes, they were trying to go at me down the short side. The workload was crazy compared to the wing, I had to get up and down a lot more and they found it easier to run traffic at me.''

Wighton, who made more first-half tackles than Raiders workhorse Shaun Fensom, admitted his defensive workload affected his impact with the ball.

Equally adept at five-eighth, the Orange product is a strong runner of the football and he expects that to return once he adjusts to his new role.

''I think I need a bit more fitness, it blew me out a bit the first [NRL] game at centre,'' Wighton said.

''[As a result] it was really hard to be explosive in my attack, I was out on my feet in a new position.

''It was definitely nerve-wracking coming up against a good centre, but it was exciting also.''

Wighton's successful transition to centre was important, as it allowed the Raiders to shift utility Shaun Berrigan into hooker, where the veteran was more influential.

Wighton is contracted with Canberra until the end of next season, but Raiders boss Don Furner has started negotiations with his manager Paul Sutton to extend his deal for another year.