Canberra's Jack Wighton has broken his silence on his State of Origin call and said there is no hard feelings with coach Brad Fittler over last year's snub. On Monday night, Phil Rothfield claimed on NRL 360 Jack Wighton's State of Origin snub was a partial result of being 'peeved' with his axing last year.
Rothfield claimed Wighton was annoyed at missing out on selection for Game III last year, which was a shock for many after his stellar performance in Game I playing at centre. He missed Game II due to Covid-19.
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Wighton has also been in the centre of contract speculation in recent weeks with the Canberra five-eighth set to test the NRL open market. After his Origin retirement, Rothfield suggested Wighton could be seeking a move to the new NRL team and his focus on club football will make him more valuable.
However, the former Kangaroos and New South Wales centre spoke to Rothfield on Tuesday and said his retirement from rep footy has been something that has been on his mind since the Rugby League World Cup.
"I’ve been thinking about it for a while....Now I want to focus on winning a premiership and having a bit more family time. That’s all this is about," he told The Daily Telegraph.
When pressed on whether it was about being frustrated he wasn't picked in Game III last year, Wighton shut down any suggestions he was annoyed at coach Fittler. “I have nothing but respect for Freddy,” Wighton added. “I really want that part cleared up.”
Jack Wighton's State of Origin bombshell
Wighton was seen as a possible selection for the Blues once again having played in 10 games at representative level with the versatile player a coach's dream. While the news is a blow to the Blues as they seek to regain the State of Origin shield, reporter Rothfield said there could be more to Wighton's retirement from representative footy than meets the eye.
“He’ll go to the Dolphins, I really think he will,” Rothfield said on NRL 360.
“He’s a more valuable player not playing State of Origin, there’s that six-week period in the middle of the season where he’ll be available for the Dolphins and not getting bashed up in the heaviest body contact in world sport - Origin."
Former Roosters five-eighth Braith Anasta admitted there was something unusual about his latest move and questioned: "So what is going on?” While Brent Read admitted that the speculation is swirling that Wighton could be seeking a move.
“I think everyone suspects that Jack is going through some sort of life change. The grapevine is he’s leaving Canberra and the Dolphins is the club that everyone is talking about,” Read added.
Wighton would have been in Origin selection contention considering his track record in the game's biggest arena. And Blues selector Alexander admitted his surprise at his retirement.
Jack Wighton's NRL contract negotiations
Wighton's representative retirement comes as the five-eighth 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.
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 has reportedly been offered around $1 million to stay at the club on a multi-year deal.
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