Raiders' relief for cleared Wighton
Canberra stars Sia Soliola and Aidan Sezer have spoken of their relief over Jack Wighton escaping suspension ahead of their qualifying final clash with the Sharks on Saturday afternoon.
Wighton was found not guilty for a grade two shoulder charge on Wests Tiger Joel Edwards at the NRL judiciary on Wednesday evening.
With five-eighth Blake Austin already sidelined with a hand injury, another blow to the Raiders' spine in the form of fullback Wighton have been a significant blow ahead of the finals.
The 23-year-old has produced eight tries and 12 try assists for the Raiders in 2016 but for veteran teammate Sia Soliola, Wighton's importance goes way beyond that.
"There's a lot of things he does for us that a lot of people don't see with his organisation around the ruck," Soliola said.
"You have to look at the try-saving tackles he's done for us this year too.
"While he had a rough patch there for a while, it's been a credit to him the way he's come back and really he's been one of our stars."
Sezer said Wighton's inclusion would prove a huge boost for the Raiders outfit this week.
"(Wighton's) huge for us, especially his defensive role," Sezer said.
"He does a lot of things off the ball alongside his great skills and his running game. He's a leader for us on the field.
Sezer was confident his team could get the job once again this week without Austin, with halfback Sam Williams having performed well in Austin's absence for the past couple of weeks.
"It's always a happier place when your regular first graders are around – we're still missing Blake but he's only a few weeks away – but hopefully we can head out on the weekend and put in a good performance," Sezer said.
"Sammy is great though. Sammy knows his job and I guess he's nothing too foreign to us. Sammy and I had some time together at the start of the year so we have come along pretty well."
Canberra will be hosting their first finals game at GIO Stadium since 2012, when they also hosted this week's opponents Cronulla.
Soliola said a finals game at home was exactly what Raiders fans deserved after an ordinary past three years.
"Coming second and earning a home semi is a cherry on top for us," Soliola said.
"Not necessarily just for us as well, but for the community. This club has sort of struggled in previous years and for them to get this home semi it means just as much to them as it does to us."