Wighton found not guilty at judiciary
Raiders fullback Jack Wighton has been cleared of a shoulder charge at the NRL judiciary and is free to face the Sharks this weekend.
The Grade 2 shoulder charge for a hit on Wests Tigers back rower Joel Edwards late in his side's 52-10 win at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday threatened to ruin Wighton's finals series with the 23-year-old facing a four match ban if found guilty by the three-man panel.
Speaking after the decision was handed down, Wighton expressed his relief at the decision.
"It was good to get the result… I was [confident], everyone had a lot of faith and glad it's over now," Wighton said.
"I was [surprised I got charged], it was just one of them tackles that looked a bit worse than what it was but it was good to get the result. Very excited, it's been a little bit rough start to the week but can't wait to get out there and try to do the Raiders proud."
The panel of Royce Ayliffe, Sean Garlick and Mal Cochrane took barely five minutes to acquit the Raiders custodian after defence counsel Nick Ghabar successfully argued Wighton's challenge was clumsy but not a shoulder charge.
Ghabar used a series of still shots to argue first contact in the tackle was between the forearms of the two players and there was separation between Wighton's upper arm and body resulting in a pushing rather than shoulder charging motion.
NRL prosecuting counsel Peter McGrath's case used eight still shots and five replays to argue Wighton went in forcefully, had time to decide how he would effect the tackle and that his arm was tucked.
The hearing got off to a rocky start after judiciary panel member Chris McKenna missed his flight in and reserve panellist Royce Ayliffe had to be called up at late notice, delaying the start of the hearing for around an hour.
Once the hearing got underway just after 7pm, prosecuting counsel Peter McGrath spent just under half an hour forensically analysing the tackle to make his case before a 20-minute response from Ghabar. Wighton was not called on to give evidence.
A group of hardcore Raiders fans who drove up from Canberra to show their support for Wighton and his coach Ricky Stuart let out a huge cheer when informed of the outcome by media outside the NRL offices at Moore Park.
The supporters engulfed Wighton when he went outside to greet them after the hearing and let out a huge "Ricky, Ricky" cry when they spotted Stuart emerge from the hearing.