Raiders fuming after NRL hands Wighton 10-game ban, $30,000 fine
The NRL has issued a 10-week ban and $30,000 fine to Jack Wighton after he pleaded guilty to assault charges from an incident in Canberra in February.
Canberra had imposed a six-week ban on the fullback but the NRL has issued a heavier sanction a day after NRL CEO Todd Greenberg announced the league would be recommending a stronger sanction.
Wighton has not played for the Raiders in their past two outings after being stood down by the club.
He will not be eligible to play until after round 25.
Wighton pleaded guilty to five counts of assault and one of public urination and will return to the ACT Magistrates Court for sentencing in November.
An NRL spokesman said video footage showed the conduct warranted a stronger penalty. Wighton will have five days to respond to the proposed penalty.
The Raiders issued a statement to express their displeasure with the decision.
"After reviewing all of the facts surrounding this incident we firmly stand by our decision and the punishment handed down by the club," chairman Allan Hawke said.
"We're disappointed to learn the NRL does not agree with this punishment and feel they have to come over the top and add a further four weeks and a monetary fine to the penalty.
"This penalty is excessive, as Jack still has to face further penalties imposed by the ACT Magistrate and Galambany Courts. We are perplexed as to why the NRL felt the need to impose further punishment before this process was concluded and it sets an extraordinary precedent to the way matters are handled by clubs in the future.
"In light of this, it appears clubs don't really have a role in imposing penalties on their own employees, so perhaps it's time for the NRL and its Integrity Unit to decide these matters, so that there will be a consistent approach for future offences.
"We will continue to support Jack in his rehabilitation."
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart believes the Raiders made the hard call by already suspending Wighton for six weeks.
"We're not a board of cowboys," Stuart told NRL.com on Saturday.
"We have very influential people in Australia and in our community, on our board. They take their job very seriously."
Stuart said people only needed to look at previous player behaviour decisions taken by the Raiders to know they did not shirk their responsibility when it came to standards the club and community accept.
"The club has shown it's done the right thing over many, many years in regards to player behaviour and I believe they've done the right thing again by wanting to stand Jack Wighton down for six weeks," he said.
On Friday Canberra captain Jarrod Croker said he thought the initial six-game ban handed down to Wighton was appropriate.
It's been a disrupted week for the Raiders with injuries, suspension and the uncertain future of fullback Wighton hanging over the team.
"It's not affecting us, of course, but we can't do anything about it, all we can worry about is training and preparing well and playing well tomorrow night," Croker said of Wighton's case.
On the field, Josh Papalii will back up from Maroons duty on Saturday night at GIO Stadium against North Queensland, having trained lightly with the side on Friday morning.
That will likely result in Sia Soliola moving to an edge, with Luke Bateman back into the side after undergoing minor surgery on a meniscus injury.
In a huge boost for the Green Machine, Jordan Rapana is right to play after suffering a serious hamstring tear in round 14 against Penrith.
"He was pushing to play last week so he's 100 per cent to go this week, if you know Rapa well enough he's forgotten about it already, not much gets to him so he's right to go," Croker said.
It's been far from the fairytale Johnathan Thurston wished to enjoy in his final season.
However, Croker knows form is temporary and class is permanent as his side prepares to face Thurston for the final time.
Croker said the Raiders were wary of Thurston's swan-song in the nation's capital could also be the death knell for their finals chances.
"He's been one of the game's greatest players, it doesn't matter which field he's on or what boots he's wearing," Croker said.
"Probably even more so now he's finishing up at the end of the year, so he's going to busy his backside like he has every other game and the players around him are going to lift."
Canberra hooker Josh Hodgson knows the Cowboys, who have lost six of their last seven, will continue to use Thurston's farewell season for motivation.
"It's always good to play against the best players in the world and he's been a fantastic player for a long period of time," Hodgson said of Thurston's legacy.
"He's consistently been one of the best in the game for a long period of time, so that's a massive reason why the Cows will be down here trying to finish strongly.
"That's usually the tough teams to play, they keep turning up every week and they're digging in especially when they've got a cause in somebody like JT.
"But we've got a job to do and we've got the eight to chase so we're just as hungry as them."
Meanwhile, Canberra captain Jarrod Croker is set to miss at least 2-3 weeks after injuring his knee in the win over the Cowboys and club officials believe he is likely to miss the rest of the season but they are awaiting scans on the injury.