The pieces are coming together for the Green Machine and Ricky Stuart is understandably upbeat about Canberra’s chances of long-term NRL success after re-signing promising fullback Jack Wighton.
The 22-year-old is the latest Raider to commit to the club, extending his contract by two years until the end of the 2018 season – and there’s promise of more to come.
Canberra’s have locked up Joey Leilua, playmaker Aidan Sezer is in pre-season training after a switch from Gold Coast and back-rower Elliott Whitehead is on his way after a starring two-try effort at the weekend for England against New Zealand.
And with Queensland enforcer Josh Papalii and English Test hooker Josh Hodgson expected to ink new deals in coming weeks, there’s reason for optimism in the nation’s capital after missing the finals the past three seasons.
“They know that we’re building something special and Jack sees that and he’s a big part of it,” Stuart said.
Stuart last week described Wighton as a part of his “big three” along with Sezer and five-eighth Blake Austin and a central pillar of their plans.
“He’s a big part of the plan going forward,” Stuart said.
“Jack’s one of the favourites amongst the boys. He’s a very young NRL player who’s played nearly 70 games of (NRL) football. He’s a guy who’ll have the opportunity to play up around 250 games so he’s a big part of the plan going forward.”
Wighton has found a home at fullback after being shifted to the back towards the end of the 2014 season.
He has been mentioned as a future NSW State of Origin representative after an outstanding season in the No.1 jersey.
He said while he attracted interest from other clubs, he never seriously contemplated leaving the Raiders.
“There’s always interest but my heart was always here at the Raiders,” Wighton said.
“We’ve got a great core group re-signing and one of the main reasons also is my little daughter. I’m really comfortable with her here and she’s one of the biggest reasons to re-sign here.”