It’s been a tough month for Jack Wighton as he wrestled with a decision on his future before deciding to sign with South Sydney for next season.
The emotional weight of his choice was there for all to see after the one-point victory over the Dolphins in Wagga Wagga. Wighton was in tears.
This weekend (18-21 May) is the NRL’s Indigenous round. The Raiders will wear a jersey designed by Eddie Longford, a Wiradjuri man, born and raised on Ngunnawal/Ngambri country. The design also had input from the club’s Indigenous players: Wighton, Jamal Fogarty, Elijah Anderson, Sebastian Kris and Xavier Savage.
For Wighton, the game against Manly on Sunday will have an even greater meaning – if that is at all possible – given the pride he has in his Aboriginal heritage.
He will wear boots painted by Koori artist Daren Dunn, which were gifted to him this week. The artwork highlights Jack’s heritage, his journey, his life and his family.
Upon receiving the boots, Wighton highlighted the support he has received from his people before and after he decided on his playing future: “I couldn’t be prouder to wear them. They look beautiful. For all the stuff I’ve been going through in the last couple of weeks, the power in the message and the support and the love, I could really feel it. I hope to do the mob proud.”
Wighton also spoke about the significance of the round and why it is so important to the Indigenous players.
“It’s a massive round. You get to represent your family, your people, your tribe,” he said. “It’s a very special round for me. This week we get to represent and show a little bit of our culture and we get to learn ourselves, just as importantly.”
For fellow Raiders Indigenous player, halfback Jamal Fogarty, the round represents an opportunity to share stories of his culture with the next generation.
“I grew up around the culture when I was a little fella. I used to do a lot of dancing and get painted up and showcase our culture at events. It’s something that I am grateful for and I appreciate it. There’s always something new to learn and that’s the best part of it.”
Sunday afternoon’s (21 May) game at GIO Stadium will see Indigenous former Raider Joel Thompson presented as the Viking Ambassador. Aunty Violet Sheridan will conduct the Welcome to Country, and there will be a performance by The Voice contestant and Indigenous artist Tahalianna Soward-Mahanga. And on the day, the Raiders Foundation will be supporting the Boomanulla Raiders.