Laurie Daley ran onto the field 244 times for the Raiders and there was always the expectation he would do something out of the ordinary.
With the ball, Daley was constantly on the attack, while he was fearless in defence. As a commentator, I remember the sense of anticipation every time he took on the line. His ability to lift the Raiders was legendary and he was one of the key players in the club’s three premierships in 1989, 1990 and 1994.
It is not dissimilar to the expectation among the Raiders faithful when Jack Wighton lines up in lime green. He has the same ability to do something out of the ordinary.
Like Daley, Wighton has always been a prodigious talent. In 2010, while in year 11 at Erindale College, he made his debut for the Raiders in the under-20s and was named man of the match in a losing team.
At 17 years of age, he was named player of the Australian Secondary Schools Rugby League Championships despite being a year younger than most of the other players at the tournament.
This season, he has emerged as one of the top players in the NRL with a competitive instinct that lifts those around him.
He showed it again in the elimination final against the Sharks on 3 October with two tries in three minutes to alter the momentum in favour of the Raiders after the Sharks dominated for 45 minutes.
In the 2019 NRL grand final against the Roosters, he became just the fourth player in a losing team to win the Clive Churchill Medal.
If anything, his game has improved this season. It is why I believe he is the closest player to Daley we have seen at the Raiders.
And it’s been a while. Daley played his final game for the club in 2000. But the similarities between Daley and Wighton are uncanny.
Daley joined the Raiders as a 16-year-old from Junee; Wighton joined the Raiders as a 16-year-old from Orange.
Daley started in the centres before moving to five-eighth, while Wighton joined the club as a centre, made his debut on the wing, before moving to fullback then five-eighth.
Daley only played for one club. Wighton has signed at the Raiders until 2024, by which time he will be 31 years of age. It’s hard to see him playing for any other team.
Both men have proudly advocated their Indigenous heritage.
Wighton’s game has evolved this season partly due to the recruitment of English halfback George Williams, who has been a revelation. Williams has taken the pressure off Wighton, who at times last season was the sole organiser.
Daley, who has a bronze statue out the front of GIO Stadium in Canberra, flourished when playing alongside Ricky Stuart.
May the similarities continue.