Almost a year ago, George Williams was on the other side of the world watching the Canberra Raiders play in the NRL Grand Final against the Sydney Roosters.
Now he’s calling the shots in attack for the Green Machine.
Since joining the club this year, the English international has seen first-hand how the team has developed over the last two seasons.
“In England, the Raiders were on Sky more or less every single week which was good,” Williams said. “I signed pretty early on so I knew nine months in advance that I was coming to the Raiders.
“I thought they were really good and finished the season really strong. They ended up in the Grand Final and I thought they had it there, the momentum was in the Raiders favour but it just wasn’t to be.”
With a few changes in personnel, Williams has seen how the team has become a different side once again in 2020.
“I’ve come in, Scotty has come in and there’s a few young lads who weren’t a part of the Grand Final squad who are now regulars and doing really well.
There’s a lot of changes and I think with the changes you become a different team.George Williams
George Williams joins Inside The NRL
When George Williams made his NRL debut for the Raiders, it didn’t take long for his strong running game to become evident as well as his confidence to back himself in attack.
“I don’t like bigging myself up too much but I think I bring a bit of energy, something new, sometimes I’m a bit unorthodox, you don’t really know what I’m going to do,” Williams said.
As the season progressed, Williams started racking up plenty of try assists through his short kicking game and the occasional cut out pass. Already the English international has 11 try assists to his name, almost double the amount of the next highest Raider.
“I’ve had a lot of success with it in the Super League,” Williams said in regards to his cut-out passes. “A lot of wingers get up and in and no matter how far it is I’ll whip it to my winger. I’ll back myself to nail the pass and score.
“But the last two weeks, we had some joy against the Broncos with it but they probably previewed me and I threw it to their winger for the last two weeks so that’s gone into retirement for the next couple of weeks unless it’s really on.”
Having found his feet in the NRL, Williams was thrust into a new role after Josh Hodgson ruptured his ACL in round nine against the Melbourne Storm.
With the Raiders attack being directed with aplomb by Hodgson over the last few seasons, the club were suddenly without their chief playmaker so Williams was given the task of directing the team – something which he hadn’t done before.
“I played six at Wigan, I was more like the running threat and Thomas Leuluai played seven. He was the organiser and the general as he’d been around the block and done it all, so I was kind of learning off him,” Williams said. “I’m really enjoying it, I’m getting my hands on the ball a bit more. It’s something new for me but it’s been going alright for the team so I’ll do whatever is best for the team.
Also coming with the new role was the license to roam on both sides of the ruck and Williams believes that having to adjust to playing on the right edge has really helped him in that role.
“Before I came to the Raiders, I had only played on the left side of the field,” Williams said. “I came here and obviously played on the right so it’s something new for me but now the variation is good. I can bring Jack a bit more space on the outside and Charnze on the inside.”
With one less kicking option on the field due to Hodgson’s absence, Williams has been working heavily on his long kicking game.
“When I first came here, they asked me what I need to work on and I’ve always been pretty confident in my short game, it’s probably my long kicking game that I need to work on,” Williams said. “That’s something that Jack is very good at so that kind of helps me kind of think, he doesn’t really like doing the short ones and I don’t really like doing the long ones so we’ve got a pretty good balance there. But we’re both really working hard on the kicks we don’t really fancy too much to get better.”
With a lot of responsibility on his shoulders, the English international is making sure he is enjoying the game, even if he tries something that doesn’t pay off.
“One thing that I’ve always tried to keep in my game is enjoying it and play what you see,” Williams said. “Obviously there is always structure, coaching and how the team wants to play but I’ll always back myself if there is an opportunity.
“Sometimes it comes off and you get a pat on the back and on the weekend where it didn’t come off - you don’t get a roasting - but a bit of a telling off but that’s rugby league.”
As the attack continues to develop with finals drawing closer, Williams is proud of his role but knows the hard work needs to continue.
“I’m pretty proud of the fact that I get to call the shots with some pretty big names in the team,” Williams said.
I work hard on my game but I’m nowhere near the finished article. I know I’m working hard every day to get better.George Williams
With Saturday’s Grand Final re-match a crucial fixture in the race for the top four, Williams knows the Roosters will be particularly focused after the Raiders claimed the win at the SCG earlier this year.
“We know how good they are,” Williams said. “We played them six or seven weeks ago and we just turned them over so it will be a good tough game.
“They will probably want to turn us down, we’re both battling for that top four so it’s going to be a great spectacle really.”