Red-hot halves steer Raiders’ finals push

There are many factors behind Canberra’s superb end-of-season charge to clinch a spot in the NRL final, but it’s hard to ignore their new combination of half as a driver of their resurgence.

Newly arrived defender Jamal Fogarty missed the entire first half of the campaign after knee surgery but has clearly helped the Raiders reach a milestone since his return, helping the team win nine wins in 13 games.

His steady hand has helped teammate Jack Wighton, Dally M’s medal winner, reach season’s best form at the perfect time of year, and the pair have been playing inspired attacking football over the past fortnight when their team scored 104 points in two games.

Fifth-eight Wighton, famous for his brutal mid runs, says it took a while, but he feels the combination works on all cylinders, especially with Fogarty doing most of the foot kick homework.

“I still drive the ship, but I only have someone I can get off with,” he told AAP.

“Create opportunities on the right; if there is no opportunity on the right, everyone sits on the left and harasses me.

“They know they have to defend both sides, this is a huge key, there is form that comes to meet you everywhere, not just on one side”.

Wighton is the only Raiders backbone member to have been a regular starter in previous years, with winger Xavier Savage and hooker Zac Woolford also needing time to build cohesion with their new teammates.

“Me, Sav and Jam (Fogarty) have been together for a number of games. It’s something I haven’t had in ages and it’s unreal, ”Wighton said.

“He took a burden off me with kicks and organization, (Fogarty) came in and was a bit general and that’s all we asked him.

“He’s learning the little details of how they work. We are all different, we football players… you have to have 17 men that day on the same page, doing the same thing and working together. “

Fogarty, who the Gold Coast Titans dropped out for young half Toby Sexton, made his former club regret the decision with what is arguably the best shape of his career.

He thanked Wighton, as well as the Raider coaches, for updating it so quickly.

“Jack has helped my game as a partner in my halves so much, like all the other senior players,” he told AAP.

“They give me confidence and control and there are times when Jacko will challenge me. We are building well and I am grateful to be part of this team.

“It’s nice to have some rhythm and combination because when your team is constantly changing it doesn’t help.

“Me, Jack, Tommy (Tom Starling), Germ (Woolford) and Xavier, we have a little bit of flow around us.

“It’s not how you start the season that matters, but how you finish it.”

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