Jack Wighton, Laurie Daley, Mal Meninga and Ricky Stuart – these are the players who come to mind when talking about Raiders players who absolutely put their bodies on the line for the club.
Wighton is the heart and soul of this current Raiders outfit, and the difference is noticeable when he is not on the field.
On Sunday, his never-say-die attitude was there for all to see against the Knights. It’s almost as though he is single-handedly trying to carry the Raiders across the line.
Not that it’s one-way traffic. The Raiders have done plenty for him over the years off the field.
The most public support of Wighton shown by the Raiders was in 2018 when he pleaded guilty to charges of assault and public urination. The NRL imposed a 10-week ban and a $30,000 fine.
The Raiders stood by him and supported him.
He repaid them in spades the following year, winning the Clive Churchill Medal for the best player on the field in the 2019 grand final loss to the Roosters.
Wighton has an option in his favour for the 2024 season and most expected him to activate it before the round 10 deadline.
He has opted to test the open market for the 2024 season.
The Raiders have indicated they will fight tooth and nail to keep him with a new deal to be presented to his manager.
I assume at 30 years of age, it will be his final contract, and I suspect he would be looking for a multiple-year deal to finish his career in the NRL.
I also expect the Raiders to be the club that finally lands the deal, but it won’t be cheap. If Mitch Moses is worth a reported $1.2 million a season, Wighton is worth that and more.
A huge factor in the Raiders’ favour is that Wighton has only ever expressed a desire to play for one club, and he is not a fan of living in cities larger than Canberra.
This is understandable given his upbringing in Orange in country NSW before being signed by the Raiders as a teenager 14 years ago.
He has become one of the leading players in the NRL. He’s played 224 games for the Raiders since making his first-grade debut in 2012.
I can’t see him leaving. Like many, I would be gutted if he does.
I predict he will sign a multi-year deal to stay at the Raiders with a contract worth plenty.
I also predict it will be an absolute circus for the next few months, with Wighton linked to every club with a halves problem. The Wests Tigers, the Dragons and the Dolphins readily come to mind.