Jack Was All Wighton The Night

Canberra - Jack WightonBy STEVE MASCORD

YOUNG Canberra star Jack Wighton has revealed he was a nervous wreck before playing against Canberra’s big three and had to be nursed through the lead-up by captain Terry Campese.

As the dust settles on the upset of the year, stories of the Raiders’ bravery have emerged with hooker Glenn Buttriss playing on despite an ugly compound fracture of the finger and the bench reduced to two men for most of the contest due to injuries to Tom Learoyd-Lahrs (foot) and Joe Picker (concussion).

What’s more, it was all done without the absent David Shillington, Jarrod Croker, Josh Papalii and Joel Thompson.

Wighton, 20, admitted lining up against Cameron Smith, Billy Slater and Cooper Cronk had been daunting “Coming into the game, it was very nerve-racking for me – definitely,” he said.

“It’s good having Campo back. He helped me through the week. It’s awesome to have someone like that around, it helps you with your confidence.”

Along with all the injuries, the Raiders also conceded a first half try to Billy Slater which coach David Furner was convinced should have been disallowed due to an obstruction.

“Questionable – very,” said Furner. “I’m just not sure with the obstruction, really. “I thought it was a non-try. It’s something I’ll definitely be questioning.

“You talk about 50-50s. There were a couple of times there where I thought we should have got the 50-50s.”

Picker’s return to the field after being heavily concussed early surprised many and the NRL is likely to double-check the procedures used, although the Raiders insist he passed all the required tests at halftime

“I told them at halftime I was ready to go,” said Picker.

“It was just a matter of them finding a spot for me on the field. I was ready to go. I think they were a bit worried but I wanted to get back out there.”

It was a big week for the “Swift Family Robinson” with Travis scoring two tries for Penrith in Monday Night Football and twin brother Reece posting an 80-metre scorcher from dummy-half four days later.

“I just saw a bit of open space and thought I’d take it,” Robinson said. “We try to bring a bit of excitement down here and try to give it to them from the start. “

Winger Sandor Earl said: “There were times down there when they got some rubbish tries and we were able to turn it around and lift ourselves again. That’s the sort of stuff that sets us up for hopefully a good season.”

It was a miraculous win in Campese’s first start this year but he said: “I can do I lot better than that, that’s probably the worst performance I’ve ever put in.

“I owe the boys a few beers after that.

“We always get up against the good teams. We have to be like that consistently and we haven’t been too good away from home.

“Beating Melbourne in Melbourne after 15 straight, mate – we can beat anyone on our day.”


THE WRAP: Representative Round

THERE may not have been many of them there, but according to Country centre Jack Wighton someone in the crowd at Coffs Harbour yesterday will have a dream crushed if City-Country is called off.
Wighton’s passionate defence of the fixture has been backed up today by a plaintive CRL media release calling for calm over the smallest crowd in the 102-year history of City-Country games.
“It was only four years ago this game was back in Orange and I was sitting in the crowd watching,” Wighton told NRL.com
“Thinking how much it meant to me … all the country towns, they come from miles to watch it. I don’t think it’s in doubt at all. We all had a lot of passion for it and it should stay.
“It’s chasing a dream.”
CRL general manager Terry Quinn said a temporary grandstand at BCE Stadium created an expense that was passed on to spectators.
“We fought extremely hard to keep this game and the ARL Commission has supported us with a significant investment in helping stage the match,” he said in a statement.
“At no stage has anyone approached this game as a money-making exercise.
“It was with the best of intentions that we invested in extra grandstand seating for the match but this impacted on the pricing structure and we all have to take some lessons from that.”
Country coach Trent Barrett said after Sunday’s game that criticism of the fixture angered him, pointing to the progress made by the likes of Wighton.
The Raiders star continued: “It was unbelievable. It was amazing playing outside of Micky Ennis and playing with people like big Willie Mason, people who’ve done it all. It’s just unreal.
“(Willie) is a very passionate man. He’s always giving advice. It’s great for a young fella.”
The 18-12 win by City marked the end of a largely successful representative weekend, with a sellout 25,628 crowd seeing Australia beat New Zealand 32-12 on Friday night at Canberra Stadium.
ARLC chairman John Grant said on ABC on Sunday he was looking at ways of involving Queensland next year – and of formalising team medicals so that clubs were not seen to be pressuring players to withdraw.
The crowd at the Saturday night representative double header of 10,143 was also a triumph – although the fact around one tenth of them invaded the pitch with the Tonga-Samoa match still underway took some gloss off the occasion.
Grant said: “While there was a pitch invasion and while that’s absolutely not where we want to be, if you talk to the players and officials, there was not one bit of malice in that pitch invasion.
“It was all about the fact there was an unexpected win and they were excited.”
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Under 20s International: JUNIOR KANGAROOS 48 JUNIOR KIWIS 16 at Dairy Farmers Stadium

THE fireworks came before and after last night as the Junior Kangaroos blitzed their New Zealand opponents, with Canberra’s Edrick Lee and Jack Wighton each posting try doubles.
The Australian under 20s tempted fate by advancing on the haka before kick-off, with players ending up nose-to-nose and jostling before team-mates separated them. Advancing on the haka is considered disrespectful but the Kiwis failed to gain any lasting motivation out of it.
The Junior Kiwis scored first through Warriors star Carlos Tuimavave but after that it was all green-and-gold, with Kelly Egan’s side leading 30-8 at halftime.
The avalanche of points continued in the second session but the final try touchdown – by Australia centre Tautau Moga – was followed by a renewal of hostilities.
NZ second rower Jason Taumalolo and Australia’s Kane Evans were involved in a shoving match that quickly escalated, with Taumalolo throwing the first punch and Evans returning service before players rushed in. Referee Gavin Reynolds quickly restored order and the other Australian prop, David Klemmer, failed in half-hearted conversion attempt to finalise the score.
It was a dramatic fall from grace for the Junior Kiwis, who won the corresponding game last year at Hunter Stadium.
Aside from a bit of biff, the game was also sandwiched by touchdowns from Lee, the cousin of NBA basketballer Patrick Mills.
He scored in the 12th minute off clubmate Wighton’s pass and again in the 60th with victory assured. While halfback Jacob Miller was able to kick his first six conversions, New Zealand’s Ngataua Manumalealii was unable to add the extras to any one of his side’s four tries.
Wighton’s tries came in the 37th and 54th minutes, both from close range.
Lachlan Maranta was a late withdrawal from the Junior Kangaroos line-up with a hamstring injury.
JUNIOR KANGAROOS 48 (E Lee 2 J Wighton 2 J Stockwell D Klemmer C Blair T Moga M Fonua tries J Miller 6 goals) bt JUNIOR KIWIS 16 (N Hukatai 2 C Tuimavave D Fusita tries) at Dairy Farmers Stadium. Referee: G Reynolds.
Filed for: SUN-HERALD