Sport Rugby League Rugby League: Last-minute medal winner Wighton into Kangaroos squad
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Rugby League: Last-minute medal winner Wighton into Kangaroos squad

Canberra's Churchill medallist Jack Wighton was in strife off-field in 2018, but turned it around in 2019. Photo: AAP
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As rugby league’s attention turns to the Kangaroos Test squad to tackle New Zealand and Tonga, in Canberra the three players chosen by coach Mal Meninga are still licking their wounds after their controversial NRL grand final loss.

The Raiders’ Clive Churchill Medallist Jack Wighton is among the new faces in the 19-man Kangaroos squad, along with teammate Nick Cotric, Wighton and previous Roo Josh Papalii.

And while the ‘six again’ fiasco that blighted Canberra’s brave bid to unseat the Roosters as NRL premiers was the big talking point on Monday, it has also been revealed that there was another embarrassing moment in the showpiece decider.

NRL.com reported that Rooster prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves waited by the side of the stage on Sunday night after being informed that he was about to receive the Clive Churchill Medal.

Channel Nine cameras were trained on Waerea-Hargreaves, who was then surprised when Wighton was named the winner – to boos from the pro-Roosters crowd.

The judging panel included Meninga and his selectors Darren Lockyer and Laurie Daley, but NRL.com reported Lockyer was unable to be contacted for his votes after the match and his votes put Wighton over the top.

It was a rare win for Canberra after several unlucky breaks in the grand final, but the Raiders co-captain Jarrod Croker says he is expecting a successful era just ahead.

The Green Machine were playing finals for the first time since 2016 and their first grand final in 25 years but fell 14-8 after James Tedesco scored the match-winner in the 72nd minute.

“It was such a great year for the club and Canberra itself. It’s been so good and it’s such a strong culture we’ve built,” Croker said.

“The way we’ve gone throughout this whole season and the way we got here, if we fluked it and got here from eighth and won our last six or seven games, it’d be a different story.

“But I feel like we’ve earned the right to be here. We did enough to get ourselves in a position to win that game. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t believe it.

“We’re never dead. All week we spoke about going to the 80th minute. We didn’t get the result, but we’re one of the better sides going the distance, which is something we’ve never been good at.

“We know if it’s a long game we’re going to be in it and we were in it up to our eyeballs, right until that 80th minute.

“It’s in our DNA now and I’m sure it’s only going to get better. We’ve turned this green jersey into a tough, scrappy footy side.”

The three Raiders players named in the Australian squad will also train with Kangaroos’ debutantes Josh Addo-Carr, Payne Haas, Paul Vaughan and Cameron Murray.

Roosters Boyd Cordner, Luke Keary, Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco are also in the team.

Captained by Cordner, the Roos will play the Kiwis on October 25 at WIN Stadium in Wollongong before taking on Tonga at Auckland’s Eden Park on November 2.

Meninga has signed a contract extension that will retain him as Kangaroos coach until the end of the 2021 World Cup.

Kangaroos squad: Josh Addo-Carr, Daly Cherry-Evans, Damien Cook, Boyd Cordner, Nick Cotric, Tyson Frizell, Wade Graham, Payne Haas, Ben Hunt, Luke Keary, David Klemmer, Latrell Mitchell, Cameron Munster, Cameron Murray, Josh Papalii, James Tedesco, Jake Trbojevic, Paul Vaughan, Jack Wighton.

-with AAP 

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