Door open for Wighton to make Origin return, says Maguire
Michael Maguire has left the door open for Jack Wighton to come out of representative retirement this State of Origin series as the NSW coach plots a winning start to his tenure.
But following the Blues’ pre-season camp, Maguire has refused to confirm whether James Tedesco will retain the NSW captaincy when the series begins in June.
South Sydney recruit Wighton announced his representative retirement only weeks before ex-coach Brad Fittler had been due to unveil his NSW squad for the 2023 Origin series opener.
A desire to focus on family and club football had motivated the former Canberra Raider to call time after 10 Origin appearances.
Typically selected as a centre or on the bench at Origin level, Wighton was the Blues’ best player in the 2022 series opener but COVID-19 rubbed him out of the second game and he was omitted for the third.
Jack Wighton scores a Blues try during game one of the 2022 Origin series in Sydney. (Dan Himbrechts/AAP PHOTOS)
NSW missed him last year and were left to count the cost of not having a utility player that could cover centre.
Queensland caught Nicho Hynes out of position at centre in the lead-up to the decisive try in game one and after an injury to Tom Trbojevic, hooker Damien Cook was forced to play there in game two.
Reports emerged this week that Wighton could reconsider his representative future now that the Blues will be coached by Maguire, an assistant at Canberra in Wighton’s last season there.
Wighton became synonymous with the Raiders across 12 seasons and 242 games as a first-grader, but is now preparing for a fresh start and a push to premiership glory with the Rabbitohs.
Maguire is set to broach the subject of a possible Origin return once the 31-year-old feels settled at Redfern.
“At the moment, Jack’s really concentrating on his club,” Maguire said.
“I think in time Jack will have a look at the (Origin) arena.
“I think he’s one of those players that loves playing in the big games. No doubt when the time is right, I’ll talk to Jack.”
Maguire rounded up 32 players for a pre-season Origin camp last weekend but has emphasised form to begin the season will be the deciding factor as he whittles that number down to 17 in June.
“History is one thing but I’m looking forward,” Maguire said.
Captain and fullback Tedesco, backed by Fittler in 2023 amid criticism of his form, is not guaranteed to lead the side under Maguire.
“At the moment, I’m not going to make any statements or answer (whether he will be captain),” Maguire said.
“I’ve said that when I first arrived, I said I want to let the players go and play.
“I know that he’s had a very, very good pre-season and no doubt, like any champion player, he’s still a champion player.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Teddy play some really good football.”