If I could have bet money on Sam Williams signing with the Raiders this offseason I would have bet everything I had (so, like at least $19) and currently be basking in my new riches (think Homer and his fancy Duffs).
Williams re-signed for two years, allowing the Raiders to keep their human security blanket around. This is important for the following reasons:
1. Canberra have a good back up
Williams is probably the best back up seven available under the cap. He’s a capable first-grade player who kicks smartly, passes well to both sides and can organise an offence with aplomb.
Each year he can give the Raiders four to five weeks of consistent football; he’ll never play origin but he’ll always give you a decent standard of play. It’s a big part of why the Raiders keep him around.
His ‘upside’ maxed out in the 2012 semi-final against them Sharks (til this day one of the greatest playoff performances by a Raider) and while he’s never really approached that again, glimpses do pop up from time to time. What he did best in that game was take on the line – something he doesn’t do enough these days. He’s not really a threat to go through (though has done on occasion), but when he digs into the line with aggression it means a smidge more time and space for the men outside him.
Too often this can go missing as he becomes so focused on organising and distributing that he ceases to be threat at the line. I wonder how much of this is mindset and how much is the physical toll of first grade gradually wearing away. In my mind it contributes to his tendency to become less effective the longer he’s playing first string.
Another major reason he can’t play consistently in the top grade is that his defence is patchy – and he can often get in bad positions, and isn’t close to as strong, pound-for-pound or otherwise, as Sezer. When he plays teams can and do take advantage of his presence in the line – not so much to find line breaks or tries but rather quick rucks and set momentum. The longer he’s in his he line-up, the better teams are able to game plan for him, contributing to his limited temporal utility.
Williams will be able to play first grade should George Williams be injured, and is about as good of an insurance policy the salary cap will allow.
2. Another nail in the Sezer coffin
There’s been a million lately; Rapana leaving, BJ staying, the persistent rumour mill regarding Huddersfield. This just confirms what we all suspect – that his time here is over. There’s simply no way given how tight their cap is that the Raiders can afford to carry three halfbacks on the roster.
We’ll have to wait for Sezer’s departure to be finalised, but we will be sad to see him go.
3. Sam will never leave
I joked the other day that Sam is going to be in green in 2030. The man is beyond part of the furniture. More importantly, he appears to be an important voice in the squad.
There’s clearly an on-field component to this. Sam is vocal on the field and seems like the kind of guy who has a clear idea how the Raiders can succeed. Even if he’s not getting regular minutes he is an influential elder statesman.
I also wonder if he’s got the football mind for coaching. It’s usually the people that have to work to stay in the top grade that make good coaches rather than star ex-players (that’s a grand generalisation across sports but fair more often than not). Williams could be the kind of player that has the intelligence and determination that makes a good coach.
The Raiders should consider whether he has this, and consider his development in that regard. He’d be years away from taking over at the club, but it makes sense for the Raiders to keep this option open – perhaps in the form of transitioning him into coaching after this contract (or even during it). They’ve shown a predilection for hiring old boys. If you’re going to operate within that prism, may as well make the most of it.