Jack Wighton rejects Raiders contract
Clive Churchill Medal winner Jack Wighton is for sale after rejecting an extension clause in his $750,000-a-season contract with the Canberra Raiders.
The Blues Origin and now Kangaroos star is free to sign with a rival club at the end of the month.
The Sunday Telegraph can reveal Wighton's manager, Matt Rose, informed Canberra last week that the outstanding five-eighth, centre or fullback would not be taking up an option for 2021.
News the Churchill Medal winner is on the open market will spark a multimillion-dollar bidding war among many of the 16 NRL clubs.
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Wighton feels a strong sense of loyalty to the club and coach Ricky Stuart, who staunchly stood by him last year when he was suspended for 10 games for an assault.
At the same time, he has improved out of sight as a player this year and wants to test the market.
"This isn't to say he wants to leave the Raiders," Rose told The Sunday Telegraph. "But a lot has happened in his career this year and he's decided against taking up an option in his favour.
"When he signed the original contract, he wasn't playing for NSW or Australia and he hadn't won the Clive Churchill Medal on grand final day.
"I'm not doing my job as his manager unless we can check the market."
Wighton will join Brisbane Broncos second-rower David Fifita as the hottest players on the open market when clubs can begin signing rival players from November 1.
The one negative to come from Canberra's amazingly successful season is that it has significantly bumped up the value of all their stars.
Even before the grand final, English forward John Bateman hooked up with a new agent, Isaac Moses, who is already trying to negotiate a contract upgrade for the Dally M second-rower of the year.
Fullback Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad was an unknown at the start of the year but is suddenly rated among the best fullbacks in the competition and deserves an upgrade.
Wighton could possibly earn $1 million-a-year on a long-term contract
at another club.
If Ash Taylor is worth $1 million at the Titans, Anthony Milford $1 million at the Broncos and Ben Hunt $1.2 million at the Dragons, Wighton can certainly attract that sort of money.
His tight relationship with Stuart will no doubt work in Canberra's favour. Yet the opportunity for the 26-year-old to earn up towards $5 million over four years in his next deal will be tempting.