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Opinion

How does reigning Dally M winner Jack Wighton fit into NSW’s plans?

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Angus Nicholls new author
Roar Rookie
15th April, 2021
23

After last year’s capitulation against ‘Queensland’s worst-ever team’ many assumed that Jack Wighton was a lock to start at five-eighth.

However, a couple of contenders are seriously challenging the Raiders star for the job.

The first challenger to the 6 throne is the current incumbent Cody Walker.

The Rabbitohs’ walking highlight real has carried his scintillating form into the new year, standing out in a star-studded team. Walker’s claim to the spot is under pressure as the star man has failed to bring his club form into the Origin arena.

Whilst some may assume Walker is nearly a walk-on, doubt is brewing over whether his single try in a blow-out win against a Cam Munster-less QLD is enough to keep his spot.

Some of the positives for the Walker choice however include his club combination with NSW’s beach-sprinting star hooker Damien Cook, which demonstrates both player’s raw ability to break open a game and produce the second-best support play in the competition.

There is also the conversation of when, not if, Latrell Mitchell makes his return to the NSW squad. With the Rabbitohs’ star fullback shining this season it will be hard for Brad Fittler to keep Mitchell exiled from the squad. If Mitchell is selected that opens up a dangerous left-edge combination for the Blues.

The next number 6 in question is Jarome Luai, the Penrith Panthers’ dynamic playmaker who is setting the NRL alight. Luai’s case for the starting jumper is clear and club-based.

Jarome Luai of the Panthers passes the ball

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

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Luai partners the incumbent NSW halfback Nathan Cleary in clubland for the Panthers and together they form one of the most damaging one-two punches in the NRL. This move would give Cleary a player he knows how to work with and a combination that would only give Cleary more confidence in his game-managing skills.

The Luai move is also interesting because it gives the Blues a platform to grow the two 1997 babies together and form a strong partnership in the Origin arena for the coming years.

Finally, we come to Jack Wighton, a true superstar in the NRL and a top-quality playmaker capable of turning a game in a single move. Wighton’s shout for the 6 jersey is the most interesting of the three.

Wighton has all the attributes to be an Origin half: he is a big body, a strong defender and he has an x-factor that few others can conjure.

However, the issues with being such a well-rounded player are that through transferable skills players become versatile and through their versatility they might not always get the position they want, but more often one they can perform in.

This has been the case for Wighton, who has managed to secure a starting centre spot after a stint off the bench in his first Origin game.

Wighton’s versatility also brings into question where he can best help the squad. Do you have arguably the best 6 in the squad at the 14 to come on and impact the game in different ways?

Let’s say Freddy decides to pick Walker as his 6 and Mitchell as his left-edge centre. Does that push Wighton to the right centre position currently occupied by Clinton Gutherson or does it push Wighton to the bench to offer a different style of attack in key moments in the game?

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Due to his skillfulness, Wighton might find himself missing out on that 6 jersey he wants so badly.