English half-back George Williams is proving to be a headline act in Australia after his latest match-winning display for Canberra Raiders.
And his former England team-mate Kevin Brown says Williams’ move to the NRL, coupled with a switch from the left to the right side of the field, has made him “the complete half-back” who will only get better and better.
In only his third NRL game, 25-year-old Williams created two tries – a looped cut out pass for winger Nick Cotric to score and then a typically devastating break to set up a try for full-back Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad – as Canberra beat Melbourne by 22-6.
The match was played behind closed doors in Melbourne as part of the NRL’s return from lockdown this weekend, and the Canberra side also included two more England internationals, Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead.
But it was Williams’ display that caused the biggest stir – and Brown believes there will be more to come from a man he knows better than most.
The pair were roommates for much of the 2017 World Cup tournament in Australia
“His attitude is great, he won’t get a big head. The type of character and the temperament he’s got, he’s playing well and he’ll want more,” said the current Salford half-back
“He’s suited at that level. I can just see him getting better and better from hereon in. And I think it’s brilliant that someone who is not an English forward has gone over there and is really standing out, because up until now it’s just been English forwards that have gone over there and cracked it.”
Brown believes the switch in Williams’ position on the field has helped make a huge difference.
“When George was at Wigan he was an out and out left-sided player and some of the stuff he did was brilliant and undefendable,” he said.
“But what a lot of teams started doing was put an athletic back rower on him, or put the full-back in the line, to stifle his attack. If you did that it would cut his game and how devastating he could be.
“At Canberra, he’s been put on the right side – by default or by good management – so he’s turned into that complete half-back where he’s very hard to defend against. He can get you on the right, he can get you on the left and he’ll get you through the middle as well.
“George has had to find a way of developing his game on the right which has really benefited him. Combine his running game and his short kicking game, and it’s worked out perfectly.”
England will benefit from Williams’ giant strides, with the 2021 World Cup just over a year away.
“Everyone says it doesn’t make them a better player because they are playing in the NRL, but the confidence they get, you can’t put a marker on that,” said Brown.
“There were 30 internationals playing in that game (Raiders v Melbourne Storm) so he’s playing at an international level without really noticing it.
“When he is playing in an international game the level will go up, but he’ll be more than ready for it because he’s playing against those players week in and week out.
“His confidence will go through the roof and that’s fantastic at such a young age when he’s going to be playing for England in the World Cup.”
The 25-year-old left hometown club Wigan at the end of last season to team up with Canberra’s clutch of English players – Hodgson and Whitehead, plus fellow former Wigan stars John Bateman and Ryan Sutton, both currently injured.
English forwards have been taking the NRL by storm for some time with likes of James Graham and Sam Burgess, and his brothers George and Tom, rated among the best players in the competition in recent years.
English backs have been less successful and Brown expects life will get tougher for Williams after such a stand-out performance. But he’s confident he can handle it.
“Coaches will see him as a threat and he might get tagged in a little more in defence, but one thing about George is that he came through Wigan as a hooker. So in terms of frailty in defence that most half-backs might have, George hasn’t got that because he’s tough.” he added.
“I’m sure coaches will be trying to expose him, but I think he’s more than capable of dealing with whatever is thrown at him.”