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Raiders five-eighth Jack Wighton.

One is from Bradford in the north of England, the other from Orange in the central west of NSW, but Elliott Whitehead knows what makes Jack Wighton tick.

That's why he could not help but feel emotional when Wighton was named on the bench for the Blues for the Holden State of Origin series opener. That news capped a remarkable turnaround for the 26-year-old.

This time last year Wighton's career was at a crossroads, in trouble with the law over a drunken incident caught on CCTV.

Whitehead said the work Wighton has put into both his game and growing as a person since then means he is richly deserving of an Origin debut.   

"He's worked really hard through the off-season all the way through and he's been one of our better performers," Wighton said.

"I nearly shed a tear when he told me he got in, I really like Jack and since I've been here I've been really close with him.

Every try from Round 11

"For him to get that call-up it means a lot to him and I hope he plays well and gets some good minutes."

With the Raiders having players in both NSW and Queensland camps for the first time in six years coming on top of a host of injuries, Saturday's clash with Canterbury takes on a totally different look.

On top of being without Wighton, Nick Cotric (NSW) and Josh Papalii (Queensland), the Raiders also now have skipper Josh Hodgson on the long-term injury list.

John Bateman (expected to return round 15-17), Jordan Rapana (round 13-14) and Joseph Leilua (out for the season) are also missing from Canberra's strongest 13. 

A closer look at the Blues' debutants

Instead of lamenting what they will be without, Whitehead said the players stepping into the side have to make the most of the chance they will be given.

"It's also a great opportunity for the younger guys who are going to get their chance over the next couple of weeks," Whitehead said.

"They can really show people they want that NRL career so it's really exciting for them as well.

"The Origin guys really deserve their spots and I'm happy for them to be there."

Siliva Havili will likely be called upon to fill in for Hodsgon, having to reprise his role from last season when he was the first-choice hooker as the Englishman recovered from knee surgery.

"It's a big loss losing Hodgey with all of the experience and leadership he brings to the team," Havili said.

Canberra utility Siliva Havili.
Canberra utility Siliva Havili. ©Keegan Carroll/NRL Photos

"I know my game is different to Hodgey's so all I can do is play a really simple game and have lots of clarity for the players around me."

Havili had been one of the Raiders' best bench players this season, with his powerful frame ideally suited to short, impact stints.

With the prospect of playing 80 minutes again starting this weekend against the Canterbury Bulldogs, Havili knows he will have to adjust his game.

"That's something I have to get my head around, not knowing what the team is this week, I'll just try and get my lungs ready and my mindset ready," he said.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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