Jack Wighton has reportedly "made himself available" for Blues selection in a stunning backflip after retiring from representative footy last year. Wighton cited family reasons and wanting to win a premiership at the Raiders last year as why he stepped away but veteran journalist Brent Read says he is keen to get back into the Blues side after Brad Fittler was replaced by Michael Maguire.
The new Blues era officially kicked off with 36 players gathering at NSWRL headquarters this weekend for a two-day camp. While Wighton wasn't part of the squad, Reed told Triple M’s The Rush Hour that the Rabbitohs star has rethought his decision to step away and wants to be part of the new Blues team.
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"Jack won’t be at the camp this weekend but he has as I understand it said, look if I’m in calculations and you want me I’ll give it some serious thought," he said. "It says about the depth of the camp that Jack isn’t considered a walk up starter.
"He’s the sort of player (that) I reckon has never let New South Wales down, the sort of bloke we say would always be in a Queensland team because in Queensland we select a bit differently. Interesting that he’s made himself available … It’s a new era right? He’s a guy who wants to be a part of it and who has rethought his decision."
Earlier this week league reporters Read and Michael Chammas hypothesised that a falling out between the former Blues coach and his star centre may have been behind the 30-year-old's decision to step down. "I think there were suggestions even last year he might backflip on that decision, but now there’s been a change of coach," Read said on the Footy Talk podcast.
"Does it just confirm he had the s***s with Brad Fittler?” Chammas questioned. Read replied: “If he backflips it probably hints at it doesn’t it?"
Wighton's relationship with Fittler may have turned soured after he missed out on selection for the 2022 Origin decider at Suncorp Stadium - named as the 18th man. It was a controversial drop after Wighton shone in Game I for the Blues, despite them going down narrowly to Queensland.
He was then ruled out of Game II with Covid and in his absence, a new-look Blues centre combination of Stephen Crichton and Matt Burton helped NSW secure a massive 44-12 win. Fittler then chose to stick with those two centres and they ultimately went on to lose the decider.
Michael Maguire's 36-man pre-season camp revealed
Wests Tigers prop Stefano Utoikamanu was excluded from Maguire's first Blues camp despite making his State of Origin debut last year. Utoikamanu has a history with Maguire given he signed the 23-year-old when he was the head coach of the Tigers but was not called in for the opening weekend.
However, it doesn't mean the young forward isn't part of the Blues long-term plans with Maguire understood to have reached out to him. Other notable absentees included Rabbitohs star Latrell Mitchell and Broncos prop Payne Haas, with the pair reportedly pulling out after being initially included in the 36, but are understood to be committed to playing for the Blues in 2024. Maguire also is understood to have contacted Storm fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen, but he turned down the opportunity so he could focus on recovering from an ankle injury in Melbourne.
Michael Maguire’s 36-man NSW squad, as reported by News Corp: Josh Addo-Carr, Matt Burton, Stephen Crichton (all Bulldogs), Nicho Hynes, Cameron McInnes (both Sharks), Hudson Young (Raiders), Bradman Best, Tyson Frizell, Jacob Saifiti, Daniel Saifiti (all Knights), James Tedesco, Daniel Tupou, Joseph Suaali’i (all Roosters), Mitchell Moses, Clint Gutherson, Junior Paulo, Reagan Campbell-Gillard (all Rabbitohs), Reece Robson (Cowboys), Jake Trbojevic, Tom Trbojevic, Haumole Olakau’atu (all Sea Eagles), Cameron Murray, Latrell Mitchell (withdrew), Cody Walker, Damien Cook, Campbell Graham, Keaon Koloamatangi (all Rabbitohs), Payne Haas (withdrew), Kotoni Staggs, Api Koroisau, Dylan Edwards, Nathan Cleary, Jarome Luai, Brian To’o, Liam Martin, Isaah Yeo.
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