Canberra star Jack Wighton has repaid coach Ricky Stuart’s unerring faith in him with a two-try haul in the Raiders’ win over North Queensland on.
The Canberra fullback scored the opening try in both halves Monday night and topped off arguably his best performance of the season with a bellringing hit on runaway Cowboys hooker Jake Granville.
Wighton finished the night with 135 metres from 16 carries, five tackle busts and two line breaks.
Stuart recalled post-game how many were calling for Wighton’s head two months ago.
“People laugh now and say that was never the case… it was,” he said.
“That’s what you get when you show just a little bit of confidence, patience and belief in a person.
“And he’s got that not just with me, but our whole club and squad. Jack Wighton’s different to a lot of other fullbacks, and that’s why I’ve got him in my team.”
The premiership-winning coach said Wighton was more than a good football player to him.
“He is one of the strongest of mates. And outside of a wonderful talent, he’s a loyal kid and he’ll always repay the faith people show in him,” he said.
“That’s what he’s like to his teammates, he’s a guy you want in your team.”
Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker wasn’t surprised by Wighton’s second-half hit on Granville.
“I’ve seen Jack make hits like that since he was about 17 years old when he first come down here,” he said.
“He’s always been a very strong aggressive player in general but defensively he’s very strong.”
After moving to within one point of the NRL top four, the Raiders now enjoy the bye and have been given time off until next Monday.
Stuart said the break came at an opportune time, with a number of players carrying injury niggles.
“They themselves have to be smart in regards to how they use it. I trust each of the boys, they all show great accountability so they know how to best recover in regards to their own bodies,” he said.
“We really need to do that now because we’re coming into a very tight part of the season.”