Column George Williams: England and Canberra half-back on his Raiders exit and return
Posted On July 22, 2021
After 18 months with the Canberra Raiders in the Australian National Rugby League, England half-back George Williams has returned home to be closer to his family, especially as he and his partner Charlotte are expecting a baby later this year. . In his BBC Sport column, Williams talks about the factors behind the return to England and what the future holds for him in the rugby league and in life in general.
After a few crazy weeks, we are finally back in England after my exit from the Canberra Raiders.
It was big news in Australia, a few stories were told and it ended up being a frustrating ending.
It was a disappointing way to end with the Raiders because I enjoyed it there, it was good and I was hoping to do good things there.
But everything happens for a reason, I guess.
My wife is pregnant and we were battling homesickness, because of Covid really, and couldn’t make it home at the end of the year.
I had requested an outing at the end of the year and the Raiders said no. I had asked three times before it all went wrong. It got a bit messy.
The club have to do what is best for the company, I’m not kidding about that, and they have to make a decision. I’m just happy to be able to put everything behind me, everything is settled.
Even though it ended bitterly, I’m happy with what I’ve accomplished, proud of what I’ve done and the life experience of playing in the NRL.
The good thing is that my partner is pregnant and we can have our child at home with family and friends. It is not all bad. We also brought our pug, we couldn’t leave him as he is part of the family.
Sometimes in sports it doesn’t turn out the way you’d like it to be a lesson in life for me and the Raiders probably too.
What went wrong with Ricky Stuart
Another difficult part was what happened with Ricky Stuart – the head coach of the Raiders. For a long time, I couldn’t say more about him. Everything from my arrival there, even to the first conversations we had about homesickness.
When it came to my departure, everything really changed. Speeches and texts came and went. I politely asked to leave at the end of the season, I didn’t just say: “I’m going to shoot”, I had discussions, I was trying to see what we could put in place.
I’m just sad the relationship is quite sour, I haven’t spoken to her since leaving. He was brilliant and I’ll never forget him, but when the going got tough he turned his back on me.
Become the media center
It was pretty crazy. Rugby league is a growing game here and football is the main sport, but if you go there, especially Sydney, it all revolves around the rugby league.
Everyone recognizes the players, it’s huge, like a Manchester United footballer walking around Manchester.
Any story about a player makes the headlines, it makes the news; you turn on the tv and your face is all over the place and we’re not used to that kind of coverage in england.
It was a shock to the system. They have to tell their side of the story, I guess, but I was disappointed with the way some things got to the media.
I spoke to the club internally, and I think they leaked it to the media and it was disappointing.
It was a change to be on top of the TV when you turn it on but it’s over now. It is all good.
Farewell to the team – “like a family”
The hardest part was saying goodbye to the guys. Been there 18 months, you are building friendships and the playgroup is amazing.
You spend five or six days a week with these guys and they’re the closest you can get to a family.
Some have spoken publicly of my support and others have sent me very good messages. I look back and smile about these friendships, and I’m sure I will stay in touch with these guys for a very long time.
As for my old mate Ryan Sutton, he has his Australian girlfriend so she will keep him under control.
Need to have close family
It was a little hard on Charlotte. Pregnancy made us realize it even more.
She had friends and those with whom she will stay in touch forever. But when we think about it, what we wouldn’t be best friends or family will be spending an hour or two helping you out when you need it most.
It was an important part of the desire to come home, Covid also had a huge impact. If it was normal Charlie could have come home but that’s just not possible so we made the decision to come home and I stand by it 100%.
No regrets – “You must chase the dream”
I don’t regret going to Australia because of the way it ended and I would never present it in a bad light to a mate or another player. ‘Gilly’ [Oliver Gildart] is a very good friend of mine and he leaves for the Wests Tigers next season.
You have to go chase your dreams and he does it so well with him.
The only thing he’ll find different, like I said, is the media coverage. But he’s a bit of a pretty boy so I’m sure he’ll like it – he’ll hate me for saying that.
He will see the difference right away, especially going to a Sydney based team, but I’m sure he will do well and I support him 100%.
Beaches, friends and cutlets
I will miss the guys, not just at the club, the people I have met in the Canberra community – the ones who have reached out and made friendships with – really good people.
I will also miss the beach from time to time even though we were going shopping in Sydney. It was a good lifestyle to live.
And the chicken cutlets – they’re good. It’s simple pub food. It’s basically breaded chicken but I miss it because they don’t sell it here. Every time I had one, the guys would say ‘Do you have one more ?!’. I was just making the most of it.
To look forward
I just can’t wait now. I’m at home. It was so good to see the family at the airport, there were a few tears and it was really nice – all the stress and drama was worth it because I knew I had made the right decision.
The baby is due in September so I can’t wait to be a dad I’m sure it will be hard enough but I will learn by running.
As far as my career is concerned, I haven’t signed for anyone yet despite reports, but I hope to return to play as soon as possible and since it’s a World Cup year I look forward to that. I have to produce some form and that’s one of my big goals.
I’m just looking forward to the next part of my life now.
Listen to more from George Williams on the BBC 5 Live Rugby League podcast, available on BBC Sounds.