Canberra star Jack Wighton has shocked the NRL after telling the Raiders he plans to test the open market. Wighton is off contract at the end of the season and the NSW star had until round 10 to trigger an extension clause in his contract.
However, in a worrying sign for the club, Wighton has reportedly told Canberra he wants to explore his options on the open market. Wighton is a one-club player and has been at Canberra for 14 years.
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While this doesn't mean Wighton will leave the club, it could attract lucrative offers from rival clubs. CEO Don Furner acknowledged it could be the five-eighth's last big contract and encouraged him to consider his options.
However, Furner said they would do everything to keep him. "Jack has been incredibly loyal to the Raiders over 14 seasons and never tested himself on the market, he has always committed to this club," Furner told AAP.
"Jack has a very young family, and this could be his last contract, so he should make sure he is absolutely 100 per cent comfortable with his decision. The Raiders will do whatever we can to keep Jack a one-club player and will continue to talk to his management about a package to retain him."
Wighton's resume speaks for itself. A World Cup winner with Australia and a NSW State of Origin talent the 30-year-old debuted with the Raiders in 2012 and sits tied for sixth on their all-time games list.
He penned a five-year deal with the club at the start of 2020, but had individual player options for 2023 and 2024, needing to trigger the option by round 10. Wighton's potential departure could headline an off-season of change in Canberra. Winger Jordan Rapana and prop Emre Guler are also out of contact, while hooker Tom Starling has a player option for 2024.
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There are a number of clubs that could circle Wighton when it comes time to negotiating a new contact. The Tigers, Bulldogs, Dolphins and Sea Eagles all have question marks over their halves pairings in the coming years.
Wighton with his experience could be seen as a strong 2-3 year option for the clubs. The Raiders will get a preview of life without Wighton when they host Penrith on Friday night, with the five-eighth accepting a two-game ban for a late hit on Newcastle's Jackson Hastings.
Frawley, who played at No.7 in Fogarty's absence, is likely to shift to No.6. "Every time he comes in he does a great job," Canberra prop Joe Tapine said of Frawley.
"His kicking game is beautiful and he always puts it in the corner. You know what you're going to get from 'Frawls'. We haven't really talked about (who will play), but either one I'm pretty safe with."
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