Even Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart was unsure how Jack Wighton would cope with the pressure of the NRL and a looming day in court.
The former Orange junior is preparing to fight allegations he assaulted at least four people when he fronts the ACT Magistrates Court on July 10, but the fullback's “two beautiful girls” have been the perfect distraction for one of the most uncertain and toughest periods of his career.
Wighton was unable to speak about the case but in his first interview since details of the incident emerged, he opened up about the distraction that has helped him focus on finding NRL form for the Green Machine.
Wighton's second daughter Ariah was born just days after the inital court appearance.
"[She is] beautiful. [I've got] two beautiful girls. Little Ariah is all healthy and mum is all good, so I’m very happy," Wighton told Fairfax Media.
“It’s my world. It’s really what I do this game for, to support them and look after them. It’s a great feeling to be able to go home and [know] they’ll be waiting for me.”
The 25-year-old appeared in the ACT Magistrates Court on April 11 and pleaded not guilty to three charges of assault occasioning actual bodily harm, five counts of common assault, and public urination in an incident occurring on February 3.
Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer says the squad has followed a maturing Wighton's lead in pushing the uncertainty surrounding his future aside, with the club backing the custodian until court proceedings conclude.
“Jacko loves his footy and that's all that counts” Sezer said.
“He's one of our leaders and puts things behind him and is real professional when he comes through the gates to training.
“He's been great the last month and to be playing inside him you can see what he does for the boys. Jacko is a huge part of our team.”
Wighton, who played his junior footy in Orange with both CYMS and Bloomfield Tigers, already has four Country Origin caps and an Indigenous All Stars jersey to his name, but the bulk of those representative honours came in the centres.
For years he was thrown around the backline before making the permanent shift to fullback in late 2014, and Wighton is finally finding his feet at the back.
“I’m happy. I’m very happy with my game, I’ve finally found my fullback legs and I’m keeping up with the ruck and whatnot. I feel like I’m finding my position well,” Wighton said.
“I think it’s experience. It’s a very important position so it’s a good thing it has finally come.”