Raiders rapt after Wighton verdict

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Raiders rapt after Wighton verdict

They are masters at dismissing hype, but Canberra couldn’t hide their joy at having fullback Jack Wighton cleared to play in the NRL finals.

Veteran forward Sia Soliola said he and his teammates cheered when they heard Tuesday night’s judiciary verdict, which exonerated Wighton of a shoulder charge.

It means he will be free to face Cronulla in Saturday’s home qualifying final.

“It’s definitely lifted our spirits,” Soliola said.

“There’s a big buzz around the place.”

Wighton has been central to the Raiders’ charge towards the playoffs, with Soliola declaring him a key figure behind the 10-game winning streak that earned them second place on the ladder.

“A lot of credit goes to Jack,” he said.

“There’s a lot of things that a lot of people don’t see, with his organisation around the ruck speed.

“Just look at all the try-saving tackles he’s made for us this year.

“He had that rough patch (mid-season), but credit to Jack, he’s really come back and been one of our stars.”

While his stats – in terms of points, tries or line breaks – don’t exactly match that of his opposite number at the Sharks, Ben Barba, Wighton’s influence has been massive.

His attacking prowess and defensive efforts have more than made up for a slew of errors and a one-game ban for making contact with a referee earlier this year, according to halfback Aidan Sezer.

“He’s massive for us,” Sezer said.

“He does a lot of things off the ball as well, alongside his great skills and his running game.

“He’s a leader for us on the field and he’s great to have there.”

Sezer dismissed any suggestion star five-eighth Blake Austin is a chance of playing alongside him this weekend despite returning to training, joking that his broken hand would “fall off” if he did.

The Raiders will field a near full-strength side against the Sharks, with prop Junior Paulo back from a rib injury.

“Junior’s a really big boost for us,” added Soliola.

“He’s really come into form the last month and him and (Shannon) Boyd have really led the way for the pack.”

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