NSW Blues debutant Jack Wighton
NSW Blues debutant Jack Wighton

The perfect No.14: Wighton key to unlock Maroons’ defence

If you were to write down three words which best typified your ideal State of Origin player, hunger, desire and aggression would be near the top of the list.

They're all adjectives being used to describe Blues rookie Jack Wighton.

After making the switch to five-eighth from fullback this year, the Canberra Raiders man has been rewarded with his first Origin call-up.

He is expected to feature from the bench, and his versatility could be key for New South Wales as Queensland's bodies tire.

Able to cover just about anywhere along the backline, Wighton offers a terrific threat with ball in hand.

What's more, those words, and his sense of the occasion mean he should thrive in the Origin arena.

"He loves getting up for the big games, and I know he'll be really excited to pull on the jersey," Michael Ennis tells foxsports.com.au.

"He's just shown a real hunger to want to perform, he's grabbed the opportunity to play five-eight and worked really hard on it.

"No matter whereabouts he is played or what part of the field he's in, he always wants to inject himself.

"He's a big body with a great running game, and he's really toughened up the Raiders' defensive line.

"He can perform well as a fullback and been awfully close in forcing himself into rep teams as a fullback. I saw him play as a young kid in the centres and he was dominant and this year he's been a revelation as a five-eighth.

"Fullback, centre, wing, five-eighth, particularly with that aggression and the way NSW played last year he's the perfect No.14 and he's in great form."

Ennis gets a unique insight into Wighton on a weekly basis, owing to his work with the Canberra Raiders.

And although a rookie at Origin level, Wighton is unlikely to be overawed by the enormity of the rivalry.

Instead, Ennis reckons the 26-year-old will thrive on it.

"He sets a real standard, he's often the guy who can ignite a training session," he adds.

"He's a jovial character, but when he's on he has this real hunger and desire to get things right.

"I think defensively he prides himself on being No.1 in that area. He's very much a voice at Canberra and he's been very dominant of making calls and enjoying that ownership of a team. Each week he's getting better and better.

"Even with the result at the weekend, Jack was one of the best players on the field with his running game.

"I think Freddy [Fittler] and Danny Buderus will give him a plan of where to attack, and I see a strength in that.

"No matter where Jack's put on, he makes an impact. He's got great anticipation and support play, he will always be sniffing around Cody Walker and Damien Cook.

"I love his kick chase, whether it's Nathan or Cody kicking down channels, he'll want to lead that and get stuck into Kalyn Ponga."