Canberra’s board have decided to suspend Jack Wighton for a total of six matches – two of which have already been served – but the NRL have the final say and is expected to decide on Monday as to whether the punishment fits the crime.
Raiders chairman Allen Hawke confirmed on Sunday that the club’s board had determined that Wighton should be permitted to return to action for the final four games of the regular season.
Awaiting sentence: Raiders fullback Jack Wighton leaves court in Canberra recently.
Ricky Stuart’s side hope to still be a chance for a spot in the top eight by then. Their finals aspirations were kept alive with a remarkable come-from-behind 32-28 victory over Canterbury at Belmore on Saturday night when they scored 18 points in the last six minutes.
That was the second match Wighton had been stood down for since pleading guilty last month to charges of assault and public urination over an incident in February.
Wighton, 25, will not be sentenced in ACT Magistrates Court until November 14, but the Raiders board met on Friday night and decided to stand him down for a total of six weeks.
“We have a pretty good track record of dealing with players who misbehave,” Hawke said.
“The board’s view is that Jack is in a different category to those people and that’s our decision. What the NRL does is for them.
“[Wighton] doesn’t have a track record of misbehaviour. It’s a one-off.”
The Raiders have in the past decade sacked Todd Carney, Josh Dugan, Blake Ferguson and Bronx Goodwin over behavioural issues.
It is understood the NRL have seen CCTV footage of the Wighton incident in Canberra and there is a belief at League Central that it is not a sacking offence, but it remains to be seen whether the six weeks that the Raiders have determined he should be sidelined for is sufficient for head office.
While the Raiders believe their recommendation is appropriate and have made the case for it, there was an acceptance from Canberra on Sunday that they will have to cop the umpire’s ruling if the NRL decide to come down harder.
“If the NRL come in over the top of it and impose a further sanction, we would have to live with that,” Hawke said.
“If they see fit to do that, we might have a debate about it behind closed doors, but we’ll live with the decision they make.”
He added: "We've consulted the NRL all the way here. From the time it happened [Raiders chief executive] Don Furner has been in touch with all of their people."
Canberra's very slim finals hopes seemed all but dashed when they faded to lose by four points to Brisbane in round 16 and even their stunning comeback against the Bulldogs leaves them six competition points outside the top eight with eight matches remaining. Making life harder is that six of those games are against top-eight teams.
If the NRL ticks off on Wighton's penalty, he would miss matches against the Cowboys, Sharks, Storm and Panthers and return for games against the Tigers, Roosters, Rabbitohs and Warriors.
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