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Jack Wighton is one of the National Rugby League's most renowned players. A Raiders player since 2012, he boasts an impressive career record that included winning the Clive Churchill Medal in their grand final defeat last season.
The five-eighth has informed the Raiders he won't exercise an option on his contract for 2024, instead choosing to explore the open market for the first time in his NRL career. Although they will fight to retain him, this move leaves them with little control over it.
On Monday night, Canberra Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton became the first player in over two decades to win the Dally M Medal. This award was bestowed upon him during a virtual count held at Fox Sports in Sydney on Monday night.
For over 42 years, the Dally M has been presented to its annual winner since 1995 - making it one of the most coveted awards in rugby league. It remains one of the most coveted prizes for any NRL player.
Wighton is a beloved figure in Canberra and an integral part of the Raiders' recent run to the finals. He earned himself a place in both the NRL team of the year and NSW Origin squad, too.
Ricky Stuart is hopeful that Wighton can play in Thursday night's crucial clash against Parramatta after suffering a rib injury during the first half of Canberra's 34-18 victory over Cronulla. Wighton was hurt when Sharks winger Sione Katoa accidentally kicked him in the leg.
He may require pain-killing injections, but is expected to make a full recovery and be ready for the Raiders' playoff campaign. Unfortunately, due to injuries suffered by Wighton (shoulder) and Whitehead (back), the Raiders lack their usual front-row depth.
The Dally M has been around for longer than most people can recall, with the trophy going to the winner each year since 1995. It is awarded to the player with the most votes in the final round of regular season as well as players from each NRL club who have made an impact on the competition.
The Raiders are on the cusp of another finals spot. A win against the Roosters on Sunday night could propel them from ninth to eighth on the ladder, but they must win their remaining three matches to guarantee a spot in Melbourne next Friday night - including one against the Broncos.
The Raiders have won five of their last six games and now sit on the same number of victories as eighth-placed Brisbane - a far cry from where they were just six weeks ago. Coach Ricky Stuart has been delighted with his team's defense this week, believing it will keep them in contention for the top eight.
That's why Paul Kelly has decided to bring back Jordan Rapana after the Kiwis star was suspended for dangerous contact in last weekend's win against the Roosters. Jordan will join his teammates at Raiders Park for their next game against Parramatta and may also be available for selection in Australia's Origin opener against Perth.
Injury troubles have hindered the Raiders a lot this season, yet they've still managed to stay in the top eight thanks to some outstanding defensive performances in the NRL this year.
They've been particularly dominant in the first half of their matches, which was evident during Saturday's win over Sharks. Young fullback Xavier Savage had an outstanding game, taking over at fullback and showing off some impressive handling skills. Additionally, he picked up the ball at crucial moments and caused plenty of damage in the process.
Though the Raiders maintained their lead during the first half, the Knights came back strong after the break and scored three tries in quick succession to cut into their lead. Greg Marzhew and Bradman Best crossed before Dane Gagai scored to make it 28-8 and prompt Stuart to pull Wighton for a 10-minute penalty.
As Frizell made his way over for a touchdown, it appeared the Knights would put the Raiders under pressure. Unfortunately, several Raiders errors led to them forfeiting the lead and Canberra's National Stadium witnessed an epic 29-point win for the Green Machine.
Despite their impressive defensive effort, the Raiders still lost a few players. Wighton was sent off for a shoulder charge while captain Adam Reynolds and prop Payne Haas both suffered injuries in the opening half.
With their victory over the Roosters, the Raiders are back on track. After being just outside the top eight after two losses, they now occupy ninth position on the ladder.
No doubt they possess the talent to be competitive in 2021, but it's their defence that must improve if they hope to make finals. They must prevent Knights tries from scoring and also prevent them from exploiting gaps in the middle of the field.
Canberra Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton could be on the move at the end of next season after informing his NRL club he intended to explore options for a new deal. He is halfway through a four-year contract with player options in 2023 and 2024, but has expressed dissatisfaction with their 2021 campaign thus far.
Mitch Moses and Cameron Munster both tested the market before ultimately signing with their clubs, suggesting that Wighton may follow in their footsteps. CEO Don Furner has encouraged him to evaluate all options and make a decision that is best for himself and his family; however, it seems unlikely that he will leave Green Machine this year.
In an interview with AAP, Furner expressed his delight that the 30-year-old would remain at the club and pledged to do everything in his power to assist him. "This may be his last big contract - he's been an incredibly loyal Raider for 14 seasons - so we will do whatever it takes to keep him here," Furner told AAP.
The Raiders are in a great position to make the finals after defeating Cronulla in their final regular season game by six points. But they face an uphill battle against Sydney Roosters who come into this match fresh off an epic thriller against Penrith.
Parramatta have been a major threat this season, with their forwards leading the charge in both attack and defence. After turning around a series of disappointing results, they have won eight out of their past 10 matches to put themselves on the verge of a premiership campaign.
They possess plenty of quality players on the field, but will need to stay sharp and agile in order to keep their opponents off the ball. Furthermore, they must avoid repeating the errors that led to Parramatta's 106 point haul against Sydney and Newcastle in the final round of regular season.
This game presents the Raiders with a great opportunity to prove they can compete against some of the competition's top teams. It promises to be an intense contest until the very end.
Due to injuries, both teams will be without some key players for this matchup. It promises to be an exciting one as Luke Keary and Jack Wighton, two of today's best goalkeepers, square off in potential standoff battles.
There will be a fierce battle for dummy half as South Sydney's Damien Cook and Parramatta's Reed Mahoney are two of the hottest players on the market, boasting incredible speed out of the dummy half that can be difficult to contain. Their attacking mindset and creativity make this game one to watch out for; be it South Sydney or Parramatta!