Souths hoping Wighton will miss just two NRL games, Kangaroos return ruled out

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South Sydney are hoping to shave at least one NRL game off Jack Wighton’s suspension by having the Indigenous All Stars match included in his ban, but there won’t be a shock Kangaroos return for the retired representative star.

The NRL judiciary found Wighton guilty of biting Tyson Gamble in Canberra’s elimination final loss to Newcastle, resulting in a three-game suspension. Wighton had pleaded not guilty in the hope of clearing his name, but was unsuccessful after an 80-minute hearing on Tuesday night.

Wighton will switch from Canberra to the Rabbitohs in the off-season at a time when there is a cloud over his representative intentions. The former Blues and Kangaroos star had retired from the State of Origin arena prior to this year’s series.

However, he won’t be getting a call-up for the Kangaroos – he was overlooked for the Prime Minister’s XIII squad named to take on PNG – following his suspension.

“He made the decision publicly that he had retired, I haven’t heard anything different, so we will just go with that,” Meninga said.

“He has got three weeks … he isn’t available anyway.”

Men’s Prime Minister’s XIII squad

Josh Addo-Carr (Bulldogs), Daly Cherry-Evans (Sea Eagles, VC), Reuben Cotter (Cowboys), Tom Dearden (Cowboys), Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Titans), Emre Guler (Raiders), Ben Hunt (Dragons), Nicho Hynes (Sharks), Alofiana Khan-Pereira (Titans), Zac Lomax (Dragons), Cameron McInnes (Sharks), Cameron Murray (Rabbitohs, C) Reece Robson (Cowboys), Tyrell Sloan (Dragons), Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow (Dolphins), Murray Taulagi (Cowboys), Jake Trbojevic (Sea Eagles), Cody Walker (Rabbitohs), Hudson Young (Raiders).

Meninga was never approached about the possibility of selecting Wighton for Australia, a move that would let him serve his suspension in the Tests rather than NRL games.

“I wouldn’t do that, that’s not my go,” Meninga said. “Just the fact of that even being considered upsets and disappoints me. I hope that’s not the case. You can be cynical about it, but you hope that’s not true.”

This masthead approached NRL judiciary chairman Geoff Bellew on Tuesday night about the prospect of Tests or the All Stars clash being included in his ban. He said any application would be considered on its merits. The Rabbitohs expect Wighton to make himself available for the Indigenous All Stars clash.

Meninga selected a strong PM’s XIII squad for the clash with PNG at Port Moresby on September 23, with Tyrell Sloan’s inclusion the biggest surprise. The Dragons fullback will go head-to-head with teammate and fellow PM’s XIII selection Zac Lomax for the No.1 jersey under incoming coach Shane Flanagan next year.

Jack Wighton could be available for Souths sooner than expected.Credit: Getty

“He’s an up-and-comer,” Meninga said of Sloan. “We all know how exciting he is with the footy, he’s played first grade all year.

“In our discussions, we feel someone like Tyrell will really benefit from being around this group and seeing how players prepare for games. It will be great for him to have conversations with everyone in the group and it will be an experience to grow from.

“Hopefully it will be a vehicle for him to become a better player and person.”

The team includes eight representatives from the 2022 World Cup-winning Kangaroos squad, for the first Prime Minister’s XIII encounter in PNG since 2018.

Women’s PM’s XIII squad

Teagan Berry (Dragons), Kennedy Cherrington (Eels, VC), Rueben Cherrington (Eels), Abbi Church (Eels), Keisha-Leigh Coolwell (Broncos), Quincy Dodd (Sharks), Kayla Fleming (First Nations Gems), Tallisha Harden (Cowboys, C), Kimberley Hunt (Eels), Emma Manzelmann (Cowboys), Jasmin Morrissey (First Nations Gems), Rachael Pearson (Eels), Christian Pio (Tigers), China Polata (Cowboys), Tiana Raftstrand-Smith (Cowboys), Taneka Todhunter (Eels), Cassey Tohi-Hiku (Eels), Botille Vette-Welsh (Tigers), Jakiya Whitfeld (Tigers), Janelle Williams (Raiders).

Meninga said Prime Minister Anthony Albanese had significant input into the team.

“Being Prime Minister is a great honour. I enjoy every part of the job, but a fun part is getting to pick the PM’s XIII sides,” Albanese said.

“These contests represent far more than just a couple of games of footy. Papua New Guinea and Australia are the closest of neighbours and we are the best of friends. We are working together to build a more prosperous, stable and peaceful region. Rugby league is an opportunity to celebrate our friendship and strengthen our partnership.”

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