‘Jack is obviously quality’: Jack Wighton looms large on NSW’s radar as Blues star contemplates State of Origin rethink


Blues coach Michael Maguire says the door is still very much open for Jack Wighton to return to the State of Origin arena, but he won’t rush the Rabbitohs recruit who is reportedly weighing up whether he wants to backflip on his retirement from the NSW side.

Wighton, 31, shocked his state last year when he made himself unavailable for selection despite playing a key role in the 10 matches he played for the Blues in a number of different roles.

There was speculation he’d fallen out with former NSW coach Brad Fittler, with Wighton forming a strong bond with Maguire while the pair worked together in Canberra last year.

It’s led to speculation that the representative utility could be persuaded to play in 2024, although Maguire says the time’s not right to make any sweeping statements about what that might look like.

“I stay in touch with all the players that I’m around, and Jack’s no different,” Maguire said at Accor Stadium on Wednesday as tickets officially went on sale for all Origin matches.

“It’s pretty well stated that he’s going to concentrate on his club footy to start with, and then from there he wants to make sure his head and body are right.

“I just want to leave that alone to let it grow itself if the time is right.

“In saying that, I’ve got some great depth. Jack is obviously quality, but I had a lot of quality sitting in front of me (at the weekend camp).

“When the time is right, I’ll pick the team from whoever is available and playing their best.”

Wighton was not one of the 36 players invited to a mini Blues camp at NSW headquarters in Olympic Park over the weekend that left Maguire buzzing as the Blues look to end Queensland’s winning streak.

Camera IconMichael Maguire met with potential NSW players over the weekend. Credit: News Corp Australia

“I loved it,” the former Kiwis coach said.

“To be able to sit there and talk to players of that calibre (was great).

“They’re actually really high-level conversations that you have when you’re talking to players like that.

“They’ve obviously been through all the learnings and the early stuff of what happens in a career, but when you get to sit down and talk to them about what it is to build a team, their knowledge is enormous.

“I love drawing that from the players to be able to build the team and how we want to play.”

Origin teams aren’t picked in February, and Maguire confirmed players outside last weekend’s camp were still well and truly in the mix for game one on June 5.

The man who led South Sydney to premiership glory in 2014 has some huge selection calls to make – most notably at fullback and five-eighth – and Maguire says he’ll approach all that with a fresh set of eyes.

Blues skipper James Tedesco is under pressure to keep his spot. Sam Ruttyn
Camera IconBlues skipper James Tedesco is under pressure to keep his spot. Sam Ruttyn Credit: Supplied

“I’ve got an open mind of where I want to take the team,” he said.

“I have relationships and knowledge of where players are at, but I actually have said to the players that I want them to enjoy their footy and play great footy because if you’ve got that frame of mind then the footy tends to do the talking.

“I’ve spoken to quite a few players outside that squad that we had here.

“I couldn’t bring everyone here or I would have brought in 50 or 60, but it was about letting them know that I am looking at form and how they’re playing.”



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