The Daily Telegraph today reported that Jack Wighton has taken the option in his deal for 2023.
This is a change from late last year, when Jack reportedly informed the team that he wouldn’t be picking up his option for 2023 (or 2024, which is similarly an option in the player’s favour). At the time we speculated that it was likely to do with a change in Wighton’s management. He’d recently got new management, and if that new management wanted to get a commission on a deal, they needed to sign one. It was a tactic Wighton had adopted the previous time he’d negotiated a deal. Then Wighton was capitalising on the glorious time that was 2019 and 2020 to make sure he got paid, and that his new management did too. A new deal followed for 2021 through 2024with options for the last two years (2023 and 2024) and well, here we are.
At the time it was acknowledged by both Jack and Don Furner that in signing for four years and three million dollarbucks, a bit of coin was being left on the table.
Jack could have earnt more money by signing with another club but sacrificed that against what we have here in Canberra. He took much less money to stay and that says a lot about Jack and his stability here.Don Furner
To the extent that Wighton may have left money on the table then, the decision by him to pick up his option now reflects that there’s more money in his current deal that out there in the marketplace. Jack’s form in 2021 didn’t match the deal he signed (though no Raider’s did). 2022 has been an improvement, but evidently not sufficient to drive the amount Wighton may get from Canberra (or more importantly, that another club may offer and force the Milk to match) back towards or above $750k a year. The club’s performances have likely contributed to a general disinterest too for the outside world (and it’s worth pointing out that back in 2020 Don said Jack was betting on the Raiders’ future success and it hurts man, it just hurts for everyone involved). This is supported by reports are that the club assumed he’d pick up his option at some point this year.
The outcome of all this is that this game will likely play out again from 1 November this year. Then it is open to Wighton to either pick up or decline to pick up his option for 2024. I would not be surprised if Wighton initially declines his option for 2024, while he and the Raiders (and perhaps other teams) seek to finalise a deal. If Wighton (and the Milk) can perform in 2023 to the extent that there’s a market above his fourth year option, then that will push all parties to the table (be it Jack and the Raiders or Jack and other teams). But if the market for him remains below $750k a year, he can always then decide to pick up the option, and keep this charade playing out over 2024 too.
The variable in all this is age. Wighton turns 30 next year, and his big earning years are dwindling. His next deal will likely not be as bountiful as his last, and that may push him towards negotiations in 2023 rather than waiting out even further. For their part Canberra have shown a willingness to extent players before their deals were done (e.g. Jarrod Croker and Elliott Whitehead). It’ll be a tricky position, for both Wighton, his management, and the Raiders, to find a deal that gives him one last pay day and doesn’t hamstring the club in the future.
It’s a space to watch, but it feels slow moving and most safe for the Raiders. They’ll always rate Jack higher than other clubs. Coach Stuart has structured much of his offence around suiting Wighton’s skills. He, and the club more broadly, have sought to protect him at every opportunity (even while strongly criticising basically everyone else on the roster). In all likelihood Jack will sign one more long term deal with the Raiders at some point in the future before riding off into the sunset. In the meantime he’s got the security of knowing he’s got as long as two more years after this year to work that deal out.
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