Jack Wighton is reportedly 'reconsidering' his decision to retire from representative football in a move that has sparked scepticism due to his suspension for biting. Wighton was hit with a three-game ban on Tuesday night after he was placed on report for allegedly biting Tyson Gamble's forearm in Canberra's loss to Newcastle last Sunday.
Because the Raiders have been eliminated from the NRL finals, Wighton's ban will now impact his new club the Rabbitohs. Sunday's game was Wighton's last for the Raiders before he moves to South Sydney next season.
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He will now miss the start of the 2024 season in a brutal new blow for Souths after their embarrassing capitulation this season. Wighton doesn't have the option of using some of the potential ban on international matches at the end of the year because he decided to retire from rep footy this season. The 30-year-old would have been one of the first players picked in Brad Fittler's NSW side for State of Origin, but made himself unavailable.
But in a huge new twist on Monday night, leading journalist Brent Read revealed there's been some "mail" that Wighton is "reconsidering" his rep retirement. The utility back was part of Mal Meninga's Kangaroos team that won the World Cup last year and would likely be picked again for end-of-year Tests against Samoa and New Zealand in October and November if available. The two matches could be used for Wighton's suspension, lessening the toll on Souths.
On NRL 360, Phil Rothfield asked if the rep retirement backflip was designed around Wighton's suspension. Read replied: “It would help".
Braith Anasta asked: “So he’s now reconsidering selection for the Australian team. That’s a coincidence."
Read reported that Meninga would wait until after any suspension was handed down before deciding whether Wighton would be in his Kangaroos squad. "I spoke to Mal and he said if Jack wants to make himself available, I won’t consider him until after the judiciary," Read revealed.
Jack Wighton backflip would be kick in the guts for Brad Fittler
A backflip on his rep retirement would be a kick in the teeth for Fittler, who suffered a second-straight series loss to Queensland in Origin this year. Wighton's decision not to play for NSW came after Fittler overlooked him for selection in the pivotal Game III in 2022, which the Blues lost.
Fittler came under fire for not picking Wighton at the time, but Wighton previously dismissed suggestions he'd fallen out with the coach and didn't want to play for him anymore. "I’ve been thinking about it for a while....Now I want to focus on winning a premiership (with the Raiders) and having a bit more family time. That’s all this is about," he told The Daily Telegraph. “I have nothing but respect for Freddy (Fittler). I really want that part cleared up.”
Despite his move to Souths, Wighton's legal representation for the judiciary hearing was covered by Canberra given he is employed by them until the end of October. The Raiders also requested the hearing be pushed back to Wednesday, but after discussions with the NRL both parties agreed Wighton would appear via videolink on Tuesday night.
The NRL counsel suggested a four-match ban, before the panel of Geoffrey Bellew SC, Penrith great Tony Puletua and former referee Paul Simpkins settled on three. Former Gold Coast forward Kevin Proctor was the last player to be suspended for biting. He was given a four-game ban in 2020 over an incident involving then-Cronulla player Shaun Johnson.
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