Jack Wighton. Photo: Rohan Thomson
RICKY STUART played beside Laurie Daley in one of rugby league's great halves combinations, now the new Raiders coach sees a similar star in Jack Wighton.
Stuart has forecast a move to five-eighth for Wighton as the Raiders close in on an upgraded three-year deal for the 20-year-old.
Wighton remains on contract with Canberra for another season, but rival clubs are already circling one of the NRL's hottest young prospects. Stuart said the Raiders wouldn't be waiting around to let Wighton go on the open market, declaring ''we're jumping in first''.
Laurie Daley. Photo: Steve Christo
Stuart has already stated his intentions to retain Canberra's best emerging talent, flying to Brisbane last month to meet rookie sensation Anthony Milford.
Stuart had lunch with Wighton in Canberra on Wednesday, having already spoken with his manager Paul Sutton in the first week of being appointed Raiders coach.
Raiders chief executive Don Furner is working through details of a three-year offer, which would have Wighton remain at the Raiders until the end of 2016. Wighton began his NRL career on the wing last year and was seen as the obvious centre replacement for Blake Ferguson, sacked by the Raiders this year.
But Stuart said he was keen to get the NSW Country representative centre even closer to the action.
Stuart compared the Orange junior with Daley, who won three premierships with the Raiders and captained both his state and country.
''At some stage I'm looking at Jack playing five-eighth, he reminds me of a Laurie Daley-style player, he's a running six,'' Stuart said. ''The more times he gets the football in his hands, the better football team we're going to have.
''It's a really important thing for me to keep our young talent, you can't be successful if you keep losing them. I see players like Jack Wighton as the future of the club … and I just love his competitiveness.''
Still a month from his first pre-season as Raiders coach, Stuart was reluctant to detail his positional plans for players. But it's understood Raiders skipper Terry Campese could be used in a first-receiver halfback role to steer the team around the park.
Milford and Josh McCrone are other halves options, although they could be considered at fullback and hooker respectively.
Meanwhile, Milford's manager Sam Ayoub said he was aiming to meet Stuart next week to continue talks about the 19-year-old's future. Milford has asked for a release, but Canberra intends to block that request and is instead looking to upgrade his deal immediately.
Milford will represent Samoa at the World Cup and Ayoub said he expected a resolution after that.
''We're still sitting tight and waiting to see what the kid's feeling, and what he wants to do.''
Ayoub also denied claims Ferguson is set to revive his career at the Roosters next year.