Jack to Souths?


As if the Jack Wighton departure lounge couldn’t get any more weirder, it’s emerged he may be leaving Canberra but not for sunny Redcliffe, but instead Redfern. As reported by James Hooper (this is where I normally say grain of salt but who knows what’s going on), Wighton is travelling to Sydney on Friday to sign a four year deal for $3.4m. If this was reported by anyone else I would say it’s a done deal.

This is surprising to say the least. Souths had been little but an observer as this process had played out of the last few weeks. Rumours of interest from Sydney clubs (like Eels, Tigers and the Roosters) had always felt silly. The amount of money is takes to bring Wighton to town would normally mean that a team has to move on someone in order to accommodate him. But Mitchell is signed through 2027. Walker and Cook through 2025. Cam Murray through next season (for reportedly about what Jack is getting paid). It seems that regardless of how unlikely it may seem the Bunnies are able to fit all of them in together.

The Bunnies are tentative but obvious winners if they manage this. They have a new plaything without having to sacrifice anything. The idea of a left side attacking raid being akin to an Australian team (Cook to Murray to Walker to Mitchell to Wighton wow) is mesmerising. They should be unstoppable. That will bring with it another set of problems but they’re the best ones to have. Coach Demetriou said their cap was pretty full. We’re not far from them not having the money for Adam Reynolds (which was also around 800k a year). Given nothing comes off their cap this year but bit parts and minimum players, teams would be wise to look at Souths second tier players like Campbell Graham and Keaon Koloamatangi (both able to negotiate for a 2025 deal from 1 November), because this deal will have to bite somewhere. Assuming the NRL is not having a laugh I guess.

For Jack I can see it. Inner city Sydney is beautiful. The talent at Souths would be intoxicating. Jason Demetriou is a good coach, and with those cattle you’d think they’d go from being ‘contenders’ to ‘favourites’ pretty easily. Wighton will get his wish to play for a premiership. He’ll get to do so while being a part rather than having everything on his shoulders. The idea suits him. The lights will be brighter for him though. Lord knows whether he’ll handle it. I hope it’s what works for his family too.

The Raiders are massive losers in this if it eventuates, unless we end up renaming the Ewing Theory the Wighton Theory. As we’ve said before this is a player they’ve invested all their time and money in, defending and coddled at every opportunity, and he might be leaving for a better football life and a fancier postcode (and presumably his good mate Latrell Mitchell). They don’t get access to much external talent, and they’ve just lost some of the best they’ve created. It’s not just they lost a highly valued talent that they nurtured and developed. It’s that they offered so much more above the market and it simply didn’t matter. Well holy shit.

If this gets announced Canberra will have to have a good think about whether they have the talent in house, or if they need to go to market. They’ll have the proverbial war chest to spend, but if you wanted to know what the Canberra tax is, it’s been quantified at x plus 300k a year. Brad Schneider needs a new contract, and he should be given every opportunity this year to prove that’s he’s worth one. But outside of that the free agent market isn’t exactly packed with obvious options.

If there is a plus here it’s that there should be no monetary restriction to keeping anyone else currently with the club. Hudson Young and Corey Horsburgh are the priority, but as we wrote recently there are 20 plus other players that are either off contract, or on the market as of 1 November this year. Having that extra cash is a good thing, but it’s not foolproof. The last thing the Raiders need to do is waste it away putting too much value in their own players.

At a macro level it’s terrible for the NRL if it occurs. A Sydney club is stealing away a Canberra legend to be just another guy at at their club. The rich are getting richer at the expense of the less fortunate, even when the poorer offer up the house, car and two of their three children. How very late capitalism. The best player at one club goes to be an afterthought somewhere else. At 300k less a year no less.

The NRL would be praying to all your favourite gods and some of the other ones too that this is an isolated incident. The sucking up of talent into the big clubs could have an impact on the integrity of the competition. It means that the core five or so teams that have competed for basically every premiership in recent memory are getting stronger, and the peloton is dropping behind. That’s bad for the game, both as a spectacle and a commodity. The Raiders were a contender, but they’ve been a critical part of the NRL’s middle class, pushing the big clubs and occasionally even getting amongst them, making more games each week important viewing (and ensuring TV dollars flow). The last thing they need is for the NRL to turn into test cricket, with three or four teams that matter and everyone else being left behind.

This is only compounded when you account for the fact that yet again it could be the Dolphins missing out on a marquee player. While I’m not sad for them it’s worth noting that it’s now at least three big names that have ‘almost’ signed with the ‘Phins only to pull the switcheroo at the last minute. They’re playing good footy and should be a free agent destination with Bennett and Brisbane as selling points. But like the Raiders they’re just another club apparently in existence to provide talent to the big clubs.

For now though we wait. James Hooper is about as a reliable as buying something off Wish. It might look like journalism but that doesn’t mean that it’s a real. I guess we wait until Friday and see if this is true.

Thanks I hate it.

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One comment

  1. Honestly wouldn’t be the worst thing to get some new blood in the halves, and it may force Don and Ricky to do some recruitment.
    On the other hand it’s Don and Ricky doing the recruitment and while Fogarty is ok but not exceptional Levi hasn’t looked any better than the two existing hookers.


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