A combination of Hodgson’s knee injury and Wighton’s suspension meant they’ve been like ships in the night – only crossing paths in Hodgson’s first game of 2018, the 48-12 thrashing of the West Tigers in round 15 at Campbelltown.
Former Kangaroos five-eighth Matthew Johns is a fan of Wighton’s move from fullback to No.6, which will have its first test against the Titans.
Johns felt Wighton could follow the path Cameron Munster blazed at the Melbourne Storm.
Munster started his Storm career at fullback, deputising for an injured Billy Slater, before shifting to the halves to become one of the best five-eighths in the game.
Johns has been hearing good things about Wighton out of the Raiders’ camp.
“I like it. One of the things you’re seeing these days is the six and the one are playing such similar roles,” the Fox League expert said.
“Munster was the first one that did that … It’s become more of an athletic running position and the ability to playmake. Jack Wighton’s perfect for it.
“The ones are becoming really great sixes. It’s just the athletic ability that they’ve got.
“If you’ve got a good playmaker at seven you don’t really need another person out there trying to shovel the ball sideways and trying to finesse the ball.
“You want someone who’s going to run and challenge the line and Wighton will do that.”
One of the all-time great five-eighths started out in the centres before switching into the halves.
Laurie Daley played in the Raiders’ first two premierships – in 1989 and ’90 – at centre, but was wearing the No.6 jersey by the time they won their third four years later.
He felt the most important thing for Wighton to worry about was taking his time.
If he can do that, then the NRL Hall of Famer was confident Wighton would make a fist of the switch.
“I think the thing for Jack is just learning to be patient,” Daley said.
“You look at him – he’s a great size, he’s got plenty of ability, but sometimes in the halves you want to rush things so you just need to take a couple of little breaths, pull yourself back, sort of adjust.
“If he learns to do that he’ll be right. Give him time, learn to be patient and he’ll be very good there.”
That size Daley mentioned should also help solve one of the Raiders’ main focuses of the off-season – their defence.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has had a big focus on fixing their defensive frailties from the past two seasons.
Moving Wighton’s 189-centimetre, 93-kilogram frame into the front line will add some starch, given he’s the biggest No.6 in the NRL.
Former Queensland enforcer Gorden Tallis was excited by Wighton’s switch.
“You want your best players with their hands on the ball. So I’m really looking forward to seeing how he goes,” he said.
“He’s a big body too in the front. That’s where everybody attacks, they attack the small guy, a bit unfair, but it happens with every side.
“They attack their playmakers, but they have Jack there and he’s certainly going to stiffen up that.”
NRL ROUND ONE
Sunday: Canberra Raiders v Gold Coast Titans on the Gold Coast, 6.10pm. Live on Fox League.
Raiders squad: 1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, 2. Nick Cotric, 3. Jarrod Croker (C), 4. Joey Leilua, 5. Bailey Simonsson, 6. Jack Wighton, 7. Aidan Sezer, 8. Josh Papalii, 9. Josh Hodgson (C), 10. Sia Soliola, 11. Joe Tapine, 12. Elliott Whitehead, 13. John Bateman. Interchange: 14. Siliva Havili, 15. Ryan Sutton, 16. Dunamis Lui, 17. Corey Horsburgh. Reserves: 18. Sam Williams, 19. Jack Murchie, 20. Luke Bateman, 21. JJ Collins.
Titans squad: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Brenko Lee, 3. Tyrone Peachey, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Tyrone Roberts, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Shannon Boyd, 11. Kevin Proctor, 12. Ryan James, 13. Jai Arrow. Interchange: 14. Alexander Brimson, 15. Moeaki Fotuaika, 16. Max King, 17. Bryce Cartwright. Reserves: 18. Mitch Rein, 19. Dale Copley, 20. Anthony Don, 21. Keegan Hipgrave.
David Polkinghorne covers the Canberra Raiders, local rugby league, Canberra Cavalry, racing and cycling, along with every other sport, for The Canberra Times.