George Williams: Risk and Reward


English half George Williams (from here on known as GWilliams) is coming to Canberra in 2020, according to the Mole. The hype around Williams suggests he will he a welcome addition to the Raiders spine. But his addition comes with a degree of risk and some questions about Jack Wighton’s role in 2019.

A disclaimer – while I’ve watched GWilliams play tests for England, I’ve usually been so distracted by the majesty of Josh Hodgson that I haven’t focused on GWilliams enough to give a breakdown of his game.

Most consider him a more traditional five-eighth: more ball-runner than organiser. You can see that he’s comfortable running through the line as well as ball-playing at the line – something no recent half has been capable of. His kicking game seems undeveloped to me. All reports are he’s an incredibly talented footballer, and at 24 the Raiders will likely get his best years. You can see how he’ll be a familiar combination with Josh Hodgson and the other English forwards. His abilities as a traditional six suggest that he’s likely coming for Jack Wighton’s spot rather than Aidan Sezer.

We’ve mentioned this before, but this reveals a muddled mind-set about Wighton’s move to the front line. Is it permanent? Are Canberra committed to him in the front line or was this more a move of convenience than desire? If so why are the Raiders wasting a year of Jack’s prime in the front line when they are going to move him back next year?

It is possible that GWilliams could play seven, though as I noted earlier I’m hardly an expert on that matter. Sezer is on contract for 2020, and if he finally fulfilled his potential in 2019 it would make it hard to move him on. It seems more likely GWilliams and Sezer would play together.

It is concerning that the Raiders are so willing to abandon combinations that are barely established. If it is so clear that Wighton and Sezer are not the halves combination we are looking for, why persist this season with it?

I’d love to know what the thinking is. My hope is the feeling is that Wighton’s game can only improve from spending time in the frontline. It will challenge his ball-play game under pressure. It will provide the Raiders with a degree of depth in their spine most teams would cherish, as well as insurance if GWilliams doesn’t work out. The competition to fit Wighton, GWilliams and Sezer into two positions would hopefully bring out the best of them, not to mention Sam Williams should they find a way to keep him around as well.

The unspoken bit of this discussion is the salary cap impact. Canberra has said repeatedly it’s already at the limit. The only major playing coming off in 2019 is Jordan Rapana. Little word has been heard about his extension. I cannot emphasise this enough: he is arguably the best outside back in rugby league. The Raiders desperately need him, and we’re about to find out just how much. If picking up a GWilliams means losing Rapana then he better be good.

Fortunately GWilliams is clearly a very talented footballer who should thrive in the National Rugby League. This could represent a potential step towards ending the search for the new Lozza and Sticky, or it could be an costly foray into the risky world of international transfers. It’s just a shame we have to wait to 2020 to find out.

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