I can’t see the Raiders’ Board sacking fullback Jack Wighton, despite the fact that he pleaded guilty to assault and public urination.
I am not condoning assault, far from it. You don’t resort to violence no matter the provocation. As a journalist you get to know players at a certain level but it rarely ventures into the social, so I can only give a somewhat superficial appraisal.
The court will deliver its punishment then the Board, with the NRL Integrity Unit, will have input. There is the possibility that the Board at the direction of the NRL may be forced to stand him down for a lengthy period, but it could depend on what sentence the court hands down.
The Raiders have been down this path before, and more often than not, they have taken a hard line on players who misbehave. They virtually cut an origin backline when they terminated the contracts of Dugan, Ferguson, Carney and Monaghan.
The belief at the time was that the NRL would back the Club to the hilt in their hardline stance, only to see all four players turn up with rival teams. At the time I also called on the Raiders to take a tough line on players misbehaviour.
Given what has happened in the past it is my view that the Raiders will punish Wighton but I don’t think the club will sack him, given the lessons they have learned from the past.
No doubt the NRL is taking a cautious approach given the fallout from Matt Lodge’s return with the Brisbane Broncos.
The Raiders have worked hard on its culture with players, including Wighton, regularly undertaking work in the community with various charities. It has been the goal of coach Ricky Stuart to ensure the players are good citizens as well as elite sportspeople. Stuart has shown himself to be an incredible manager with a number of players turning their careers and lives around in Canberra.
Let’s face it; rugby league has the ability to offer players, such as Wighton, a chance to better their circumstances in life. It is for that reason the Raiders need to keep him in their system, work with him, help his growth and impact on his values, and allow him to regain their trust.