The South Sydney Rabbitohs have emerged as shock frontrunners for the signature of Canberra star Jack Wighton, with Fox League reporter James Hooper claiming it is close to being a done deal. The 30-year-old Kangaroos World Cup winner has spent the entirety of his NRL career with the Raiders, but declared recently that he wanted to test himself on the open market.
Wighton has received interest from the Dolphins as well as a concrete offer from Canberra to extend his stay in the nation's capital on a new four-year deal worth $4.4 million dollars. However, Hooper says the 30-year-old - who shocked the league world this week by announcing he's retiring from rep footy - is on the verge of accepting a dal with the Rabbitohs worth $1 million less than the Canberra offer.
'NO WIN SITUATION': NRL boss hits out over hair-pull furore
'EXTRAORDINARY': Nicho Hynes justifies $7 million hype in awesome scenes
The report states that Wighton is expected to travel to Sydney on Friday to finalise an agreement with the Bunnies that is " tipped to be a four-year deal with South Sydney until the end of 2026”. It goes on to suggest that the contract is worth around $850,000 per season, or $3.4 million over the course of the four years - a whopping $1 million less than what he could earn at the Raiders.
“The Rabbitohs trump card is Wighton’s great mateship with superstar fullback Latrell Mitchell, the desire to win a premiership and South Sydney’s proud Indigenous history,” Hooper reported. The Fox League journalist says Wighton was the one who made his interest known to Souths coach Jason Demetriou, who confirmed on Wednesday that he would be keen to bring the 30-year-old to the club, if they can fit him under the salary cap.
"I love Jack and I know he's got a lot of good friends in the club through rep footy," Demetriou said. "If Cookie's (hooker Damien Cook) willing to take a pay cut there's probably something we can sit down and have a chat about.
"We'll get all the big earners and see what they're willing to do. We'd love to have him here if there was an opportunity to get him here, but we're pretty full on the salary cap as well.
"It's unlikely but we'll see what happens." Any move from Wighton to the Rabbitohs would likely see him take up a position in the centres, with Cody Walker a lock as the team's five-eighth.
Cook said earlier this week that he would be keen for Wighton, who is close friends with fellow Indigenous stars Mitchell and Walker, to join the club. The bombshell Wighton news has sent the internet into meltdown, with fans insisting it would be a massive coup from the Rabbitohs, if they pull it off.
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) April 19, 2023
If the signing comes off, Jack Wighton and Campbell Graham will be the best defensive centre duo in the NRL.
Can break a tackle, too.#NRL
— Jack Blyth (@jblesfooty224) April 19, 2023
Imagine adding Jack Wighton to a team that already has Cody Walker, Latrell Mitchell, Shaq Mitchell, Isaiah Tass, Blake Taaffe and Alex Johnston. Is it possible to add any more INSTINCTS to the one team?
— Tom (@tomhay18) April 19, 2023
— Raiders 2023 Believer (@sloanefather) April 19, 2023
— Sideline Sharp (Podonis) (@SidelineSharp) April 19, 2023
Rabbitohs coach talks up Cody Walker quality
Demetriou would almost certainly shift Wighton from his current position of five-eighth at the Raiders into the centres after lauding Bunnies superstar Walker as the game's best No.6. Walker backed up a massive game against the Bulldogs with another superb display against the Dolphins, but faces a sterner test in Thursday night's battle against Penrith five-eighth, Jarome Luai.
Penrith have beaten Souths in 10 of their last 11 meetings and the Walker-Luai showdown provides a curious backdrop with State of Origin selection for NSW becoming a hot topic. Walker hasn't played for the Blues since 2020 and while backing his No.6, Demetriou conceded it would be hard for him to dislodge Luai.
"I'd be picking him (Walker) if I was picking a team but obviously I don't pick the team," Demetriou said. "Jarome has done a great job over the last few years and he's the incumbent.
"Jarome would have to be playing pretty ordinary not to get a start and I think he's playing some good footy at the moment. Cody's very much an attacking minded player and what I really like about Jarome is his ability to compete, he's in the fight all the time."
Demetriou confirmed star back-rower Keaon Koloamatangi would be back in six to eight weeks after undergoing ankle surgery. Siliva Havili, Liam Knight and Junior Tatola are also nearing a return to full fitness.
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.