Jack Wighton's class shone through on Sunday night as he claimed the Clive Churchill Medal in the Raiders' controversy-laced grand final loss and after that effort capped his huge 2019 season, he was rewarded with Australian selection on Monday morning.
The Australian Rugby League Commission released the Kangaroos' squad to face New Zealand and Tonga just before 11am on Monday, with Wighton named as one of six potential debutants alongside Josh Addo-Carr, Payne Haas, Cameron Murray, Paul Vaughan and Raiders teammates Nick Cotric.
Wighton said it would be a dream come true if he could make his Australian debut.
"I wouldn't talk about that before the (grand final) week because I was looking forward to the week," he said.
"It's every kid's dream and it's one of those things I would love to achieve."
Wighton's national selection came the day after he became just the fourth player to claim the Clive Churchill Medal from a losing side, with six more who played in Sunday's grand final named for Australia.
His 30th minute effort was the only time his Raiders broke the Roosters' defence and he proved a constant threat with every one of his 62 touches, he was bruising defensively and in being tasked with aerially targeting the Roosters' right edge he kicked superbly.
Despite his side being on the wrong end of the 14-8 scoreline Orange product proved a clear choice for medal judges Mal Meninga, Darren Lockyer and Laurie Daley, although it did emerge Roosters prop Jared Warea-Hargreaves was informed he'd won it prior to the announcement.
It was a numb feeling to achieve something so big but it's probably the worst moment of my life losing the grand final.Jack Wighton
However it's now understood Warea-Hargreaves was simply informed he was in the mix prior to Lockyer's votes being tallied, which eventually pushed Wighton to his deserved medal win.
As he made his speech after receiving the medal Wighton was forced to ignore a chorus of jeers from Roosters fans - whom Canberra coach Ricky Stuart labelled 'wombats' - and proved his class there too.
He congratulated the now back-to-back premiers and admitted the medal will serve as a bittersweet reminder of his first grand final appearance, albeit one he'll cherish, and heaped praise on his fighting Raiders.
"It was a numb feeling to achieve something so big but it's probably the worst moment of my life losing the grand final," Wighton said.
"I'm extremely proud of the boys and I love every single one of them. It's just a really weird feeling at the moment.
"I really felt we had the team to do it this year, you know. We actually did, we got beaten by a good team.
"It is a hard one... so close but so far. That was the competition all year. Hats off to our boys... hats off to the Roosters, but it's absolutely gut wrenching.
"It's a feeling I can't explain. It is just hard to swallow."
The Raiders' defeat was sealed with James Tedesco's 72nd minute four-pointer which, of course, came after the much-maligned 'six again' call from referee Ben Cummins, which will be spoken about ad-nauseum when the 2019 grand final is reference in the future.
Cummins signalled a new set for the Raiders after Tedesco appeared to spill a Wighton bomb.
He flipped after receiving word it came off a Canberra player and corrected the call almost immediately, but the reversal didn't register with the Raiders and it was Wighton who was brought down, forcing a handover.
Tedesco scored at the end of the that resulting set, in one of the grand final's most contentious moments.
Stuart refused to comment on that moment after the game and Wighton confirmed he simply didn't hear the correction and credited the Roosters' defensive effort.
That effort off the ball deserved credit too, especially their ability to hold firm despite being down to 12 for 10 minutes after Cooper Cronk's sin-binning.
"Everyone saw it. If I'd heard him I would've tried to force a repeat set or something, but I thought it was six again," Wighton said, prior to the post-game press conference in which he also stayed silent on the decision.
He did open up a bit more regarding the "massive moment in the game" when he spoke with Wide World of Sports in the sheds afterwards, but still didn't blame Cummins or his assistants.
"I watched [Cummins] wave his arm. He called six again so I held it because he called six again. Why would I change my mind when I did exactly what I was [supposed to] by what I saw?," Wighton said, having put the Clive Churchill Medal away for safe keeping.
"He's gone back on his decision ... but we're definitely not going to blame the ref for our loss. We had more than enough opportunities."
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