How Wighton turned his NRL game around

There was a point earlier this NRL season where Jack Wighton felt things were falling apart.

Handling errors, poor decisions, missed tackles.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying; the Canberra fullback was simply trying too hard.

Not to impress coach Ricky Stuart, Australian or State of Origin selectors; he just didn’t want to let down his teammates.

“That’s when the pressure comes,” he told AAP ahead of Saturday’s grand final qualifier against Melbourne.

“I know I can play football – I’ve been doing it for a few years now.

“I was doing all the hard work, I was just overplaying my hand. That’s why things were falling apart a bit.

“I was thinking ‘when was it going to change’?”

Wighton had a night to forget back in May, when his no-look pass 15m out from his own line in extra time handed St George Illawarra a 16-12 golden point victory.

Former NSW halfback Brett Kimmorley suggested at the time that moment could be the making of the 23-year-old.

And he might not have been far off.

“I was getting too caught up in what was going wrong instead of appreciating that I was actually out there,” Wighton said.

“Once I realised that, my perspective on the whole game just changed.”

The Indigenous All Star put his transformation down to two things: Raiders assistant coach Mick Crawley and The Resilience Project – an NRL-funded program to help players deal with mental health.

Wighton said Crawley had been “unreal” in helping him stress less.

“He explains football like no other that I’ve had.

“He had a lot of faith in me too, more than anyone I dare say so, and also gives me confidence.”

The Resilience workshop, founded and run by Hugh van Cuylenburg, also touched a lot of bases with Wighton, both personally and professionally.

“It’s just about enjoying now and being appreciative of the opportunity not many people have,” he said.

“I think that was massive for me.

“I’ve got a beautiful girlfriend and a pretty little daughter, and they’ve been helping a lot with my footy this year. I’m so, so lucky.”

Wighton has been touted by many as a future representative star, including current Australia coach and Queensland and Raiders legend Mal Meninga.

The Green Machine custodian hopes his hard work one day pays off in the form of a Kangaroos and/or NSW jumper, but he’s not getting ahead of himself.

“”If I fix my game here and if I’m good enough, hopefully someone will take me.”

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