Canberra star Jack Wighton will enter Saturday's clash with Penrith with a fire in his belly, but it won't be driven by a desire to reignite his feud with Panthers centre Stephen Crichton.
The pair nearly came to blows at the end of their round seven clash, teammates rushing in to separate the players while the sides were shaking hands.
The duo broke bread as NSW teammates in the first State of Origin clash, however an untimely bout of COVID saw Wighton sit out the second. Crichton was elevated to the starting side as his replacement.
Wighton was again on the outside looking in for the decider, Blues coach Brad Fittler controversially omitting the former Dally M medallist, instead opting to retain the Panthers centre.
It's the disappointment of that decision that has Wighton fired up, the five-eighth using the snub to lead the Raiders to three straight wins since the Origin series ended.
It's a winning streak that goes on the line on Saturday afternoon when Crichton and the Panthers come to Canberra, Wighton eager to guide his side to victory.
"Things like that always light a fire in the belly," Wighton said.
"You're always trying to be better. Full credit to everybody who got picked in that [NSW] team, they're a great bunch of blokes who tried their guts out.
"Full respect to them, but it always lights a little fire. I'm just running with that.
"On the park, everyone's competitive, everyone's trying to win. That's what we're going to go out there and try to do."
The Raiders find themselves in an unfamiliar position this weekend, the side settled and building momentum towards the business end of the season.
Wighton's partnership with halfback Jamal Fogarty only continues to build, the former Titan steadily building since his return from injury in round 12.
This time it's Penrith who are the side on the back foot, reeling after a 34-10 loss to the Eels in which halfback Nathan Cleary was sent off.
The NSW No.7 will miss the next five games through suspension, while halves partner Jarome Luai isn't expected to return until the finals after injuring his MCL.
The developments have thrown the premiership race wide open, Canberra looking to take advantage of their absence this weekend.
There will be no complacency, however, Wighton recognising how dangerous this Panthers side is.
"Through the Origin period, they missed their whole spine and more and they still blew teams off the park," Wighton said. "We know they're going to turn up, they're the reigning premiers.
"We're going to have to be on our game, we're not looking at them too much. The two people coming in are just as good."
Wighton credits much of the success of recent weeks for the increasing familiarity with Fogarty, the duo finally having the chance to string multiple matches together and build their partnership.
Playing behind a dominant forward pack, the halves have been able to attack with time and space and effectively utilise their kicking games to pin their opponents deep in their own half.
Wighton has enjoyed sharing the kicking duties and is looking to continue taking advantage of the opportunities Fogarty's presence opens up.
"We've been chopping and changing over the last two to three years," Wighton said. "We've always had a broken spine, so just having us together for a little amount of time, it's really helpful.
"My kicking's gotten better because of Jamal. I've got a halfback on the other side of the field that's making their back three think, that really opens up my kicking.
"He's taken on more of a role as a kicker. I've got my little halfback buddy doing a lot more of his work and I'm getting better results off it."
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