2018 was a year to forget for Jack Wighton but the Raiders’ new five-eighth is looking forward to the season ahead with the chance to put the off-field drama behind him.
Wighton narrowly avoided jail time last year after being given a two-month suspended sentence for assaulting five men while out celebrating his birthday. He hasn’t played a competitive NRL match since round 15 last year after the league handed him a 10-game ban.
Though the incident took place in February last year, the saga hung over his head for the majority of the season as he awaited his sentence from the ACT Galambany Circle Sentencing Court.
Wighton is relieved to head into the season leaving the past in the past and is keen to show that he should be remembered for his heroics on the field rather than 90 seconds of bad behaviour off it.
With his career at a crossroads, Wighton said the time off the field gave him time to do some soul searching which gave him a new attitude towards life.
“The suspension showed me how much I do love the game,” he shared. “I definitely found a new outlook on life and on the game.
“I am getting older now so I have got to take every chance I am given and take it with both hands and really run with it.
“No more blunders, it’s all got to be now or nothing. That is the way I feel about everything now.”
The 26-year-old admits the incident could have been the end of his career at the club and is now focusing on repaying his teammates.
“I feel like I owe something to my teammates, definitely. Out of the whole issue, the thing that bugged me most day-to-day waking up was that I was letting them down,” he said.
“Whether I could have made a difference to get us into the finals or just not taking to the park with them was one of the things that carried the most load.
“I had trouble swallowing that.”
He hopes that his muck-up will be a lesson to young footballers and shared his desire to be a mentor if anyone was met with the same situation.
“Just because I mucked up doesn’t mean I am a preacher but if any of the young fellas come to me for advice or feel like they are headed towards a situation, they all know I am very happy to talk to them and give them a helping hand,” he said.
“I will do anything that I can to stop them from going down that road too.
“I have done the thing and I have done the time. I got all my punishments and they are all out of the way so now I am ready to roll. I feel fresh and no more thinking about it. It’s all over now so I’m looking forward to the season ahead.”