A distraction we'll overcome: Stuart
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart says an unplanned midweek trip to Sydney to defend fullback Jack Wighton from a shoulder charge citation at the NRL judiciary was an unwelcome distraction but one his team will overcome.
A one-hour delay to the start of the hearing on Tuesday night after panel member Chris McKenna missed a flight meant Stuart and Wighton in turn missed their flight home and had to drive back to Canberra, according to Stuart.
It also prevented a planned team session on Tuesday afternoon, he added.
"Very relieved, it's been a huge distraction for two days," Stuart said after the three-man panel took just five minutes to return their not-guilty verdict.
"It's just one of those things we had to get through. I'm just really happy with the hearing and really happy for the team and Jack obviously.
"It seemed like [it was clear cut], it was very quick from the panel's decision but there's been a lot of work go into it for the last two days, going into actually putting a case together and [defence counsel] Nick Ghabar did a wonderful job. He was very thorough and he said straight away we had a very strong case. It gave us great confidence to go for the not guilty."
Of the team's preparation for Saturday's qualifying final against the Sharks at GIO Stadium, Stuart added: "I wanted to do some stuff with the team [Tuesday] afternoon but we had to postpone it.
"We've got to drive back now instead of fly back, we missed out flight. We'll get through it, it's just a challenge. It's not going to be anything but something we just have to overcome. It's another hurdle we'll overcome and start preparation tomorrow."
Stuart elaborated on the conversation he had when he informed Wighton about the charge, with the 23-year-old initially thinking the news was a joke.
"When I rang him he wouldn't believe me because he thought I was joking. He was in Sydney, a few of the boys stayed for Father's Day with their partners and kids," Stuart said.
"He's been pretty settled and confident for two days. He handled himself really well tonight with the fans and the media. I'm happy for Jack because he's put so much into the season himself.
"I'm really looking forward to getting home now and concentrating on football and not having to worry about this."
Stuart and Wighton received a rousing reception from a small group of dedicated Raiders fans who drove up to Sydney from Canberra on Tuesday to show their support for their heroes.
"It's just so special, it's wonderful to have people from Canberra – I think they're from Canberra the people who drove up – that is the buzz down there at the moment with the community," Stuart said.
"They're mad passionate league fans and the game's in god shape down there at the moment and we'll see that with a sell-out on Saturday."