… Cup had exposed him to the lifestyle in Australia and he now wanted to join the increasing number of England players in the Telstra Premiership.
England playmaker George Williams has confirmed his desire to play in the NRL next season.
Williams is under contract to Wigan for a further two years but said he was keen to move to Australia and would consider any offer from NRL clubs.
“It is something I have always dreamt to do so I definitely want to give it a go if there is a chance,” Williams told NRL.com.
“Wigan would have to agree but if the NRL was an opportunity for me I would love to move to Australia to take that up.”
The 23-year-old has played seven Tests for England and was a member of the England squad which made the final of last year’s World Cup against Australia at Suncorp Stadium.
While there was interest from NRL clubs before Williams re-signed with Wigan last year, he said the World Cup had exposed him to the lifestyle in Australia and he now wanted to join the increasing number of England players in the Telstra Premiership.
“With the World Cup we did eight weeks, we travelled around and I got to see what it was all about,” Williams said.
“I loved it, the lifestyle is good and it is definitely something that I’d like to do.”
Williams has recently been linked to Newcastle but the 2015 Super League rookie of the year said he had not spoken to any NRL club about a move.
The Burgess brothers, Sam, George and Tom, play for South Sydney, Gareth Widdop and James Graham are key members of the St George Illawarra squad, while winger Ryan Hall will join Sydney Roosters next season.
“I think it has massively helped England internationally to have so many boys playing week in and week out in the NRL,” Williams said.
“I think our national team has benefitted from that. They play against the Australian boys every week and get to test themselves so it can only make you a better player in my opinion.”
Wigan this week announced the appointment of former Papua New Guinea star Adrian Lam as coach for next season and he is reportedly planning to bring his son Lachlan, who plays in the halves for the Roosters and represented the Kumuls at the World Cup.
Great Britain legend Shaun Edwards will take over as coach from 2020 after completing his commitments with Wales at next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
North Queensland Cowboys v Brisbane Broncos, Thursday 7.50pm at 1300Smiles Stadium
Cowboys: Corey Jensen replaces Shaun Fensom (concussion) on the bench in North Queensland’s only change. Coen Hess regained a bit of Fantasy form in the past couple of weeks with scores of 60 and 72, with the latter including two line breaks but no tries. One player who did find the try-line was Jason Taumalolo, who bounced James Tedesco out of his path on the way to 64 Fantasy points to bring his season average to 55.
Broncos: Tevita Pangai jnr’s hamstring injury has bumped him out of the 17 and into the reserves, while a backline reshuffle means rookie Gehamat Shibasaki gets his debut in the centres with Darius Boyd returning to fullback and Jamayne Isaako back on the wing. Matt Lodge is in good Fantasy form, reeling off three straight 50+ scores for the first time in his career, and at $630k could be a cut-price left-field keeper option if he keeps that up. Andrew McCullough smashed out a season-high 81 last week with 55 tackles and a try assist.
New Zealand Warriors v Newcastle Knights, Friday 6pm at Mt Smart Stadium
Warriors: Sam Lisone is suspended and Bunty Afoa is also facing a possible ban when he fronts the judiciary on Tuesday night, with Peta Hiku named to replace Lisone on the bench while Adam Blair is in the second row with Simon Mannering at lock. Issac Luke (71 last week) is one of several hookers in great form at the moment but he’s being outscored at the Warriors by Jazz Tevaga, who has reeled off scores of 60, 60, 45 and 73 in the past month.
Knights: Rookie prop Pasami Saulo gets his debut via the bench with Josh King dropping out and Herman Ese’ese into the starting side. Kalyn Ponga and Mitchell Pearce are both in some doubt to play but have been named. Aidan Guerra scored 94 last week – easily his best score of the season – but Lachlan Fitzgibbon somehow went a game without scoring a try and finished on 39. After starting his big-minute role with back-to-back 60s Danny Levi scored 30 in 55 minutes in round 20 then 44 in 80 minutes last week.
South Sydney Rabbitohs v Sydney Roosters, Friday 7.55pm at ANZ Stadium
Rabbitohs: Adam Doueihi is out for the season with an ACL injury, replaced in the side by Richie Kennar who is named on the wing. Damien Cook is on track to be the first NRL Fantasy player ever to have a $1 million price tag next round, with a break even of 46, a current price of $985k and an average of 80 in his past three games. Angus Crichton and Sam Burgess have both been scoring strongly of late, while Adam Reynolds is back to scoring around 50 points a game (he’s made 49, 48 and 49 in his past three).
Roosters: No changes for the Tricolours. Latrell Mitchell is playing like Greg Inglis at his peak, scoring six tries in his past three games with last week’s 51 easily his worst score in that time. Ryan Matterson scored just 31 playing at five-eighth last week.
Gold Coast Titans v Penrith Panthers, Saturday 3pm at Cbus Super Stadium
Titans: Keegan Hipgrave returns to the starting side after being a late out last week, with Will Matthews benched and Jai Whitbread in the reserves. After all the hype around Jai Arrow’s Fantasy decline last week, of course he goes out and top-scores for the Gold Coast with 58 points in 73 minutes. Assuming he keeps up anything like that game time he’s back to being a pretty good value buy a $673k. Kudos to those who held him. Ryan James meanwhile is averaging less than 43 across his past five games and probably needs to find the try-line again to resume his monster scoring from earlier in the year.
Panthers: It’s been a wild week for Penrith but new caretaker coach Cameron Ciraldo hasn’t made any dramatic changes to the 17, with Reagan Campbell-Gillard to start and Moses Leota moving back to the bench in the team’s only change. Nathan Cleary recovered from a slow start last week to finish on 46 while Tyrone Peachey scored 68 from fullback.
Manly Warringah Sea Eagles v Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 5.30pm Saturday at McGrath Foundation Stadium (Brookvale)
Sea Eagles: No changes. Their form may be all over the place but Manly’s Fantasy guns continue to deliver, with Martin Taupau, Jake Trbojevic and Daly Cherry-Evans all scoring exactly 60 last week while Manase Fainu made 52 and Tom Trbojevic scored 49. Shaun Lane is the team’s top try-scorer this year but, like Lachlan Fitzgibbon at the Knights, will always look a risky buy.
Bulldogs: The return of Jeremy Marshall-King and David Klemmer means Matt Frawley and Greg Eastwood drop out of the side. Kerrod Holland’s scoring has doubled in the past three weeks – from 27 points a game to 54 in the past three weeks – but Rhyse Martin is the only certain keeper in this side, with his price tag about to hit $800,000 after jumping by $563,000 this season.
The Youi Team of the Week for Round 21! #NRLFantasy
Parramatta Eels v St George Illawarra Dragons, Saturday 7.35pm at ANZ Stadium
Eels: The Eels are shaking things up with rookie Jaeman Salmon starting at five-eighth and Bevan French dropped, with Corey Norman moving to fullback, Clint Gutherson to the centres and Jarryd Hayne on the wing. Nathan Brown has played the full 80 minutes twice in the last three weeks, scoring 60 on both occasions, while Mitchell Moses is also in a bit of recent form with two 50s in the past three weeks. (Remember when he was considered a dark horse Fantasy prospect, less than a year ago?) Hayne’s five-game average is an excellent 54 and he is a genuine option in the centres these days.
Dragons: Paul Vaughan will miss a month with an ankle injury, with Blake Lawrie joining the sde on the bench. Cameron McInnes was a sneaky buy for my team ahead of the final bye round and he’s been excellent since then, averaging just under 64 in his last five, while Ben Hunt has three 50s and a 93 to his name in the last month. Euan Aitken’s four-game try-scoring drought is his longest this season.
Canberra Raiders v Wests Tigers, Sunday 2pm at GIO Stadium
Raiders: They are inseparable on the field and Jordan Rapana and Joey Leilua are the same in Fantasy right now: both players cost $564,000 and scored 68 points last week. Expect Canberra to keep sending the ball their way in the final month of the season. Nick Cotric hasn’t quite taken off as a Fantasy gun at fullback, scoring 40 last week. No changes for Canberra this week.
Wests Tigers: Corey Thompson’s season-ending ankle injury means Malakai Watene-Zelezniak returns to the backline on the wing, while Mahe Fonua is closing in on a return from a broken arm after being named in the reserves. A try against the Knights saved Robbie Farah from what could have been his second sub-par score in three games, with the veteran hooker finishing on 50. Luke Brooks is in great form right now but he’s had scoring sprees like this before and has a season average below 42.
Melbourne Storm v Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks, Sunday 4.10pm at AAMI Park
Storm: Suliasi Vunivalu returns on the wing with Cheyse Blair dropping out. Cameron Smith has only scored less than 50 once since early May, but such is the form of Damien Cook that Smith has been dethroned as the league’s best Fantasy player. Next season could be the first year in recent memory that Smith isn’t an automatic selection for most Fantasy sides.
Sharks: Unchanged. Andrew Fifita had scored 33 points in 31 minutes before a concussion ended his afternoon against Manly on Sunday. He’s obviously a hold, after scores of 81 and 62 in the previous two weeks. Valentine Holmes’s 35 last week was his worst score since round 11, despite the fact he scored yet another try.
The Roosters mentor recently suggested the Telstra Premiership be reduced to 20 rounds, with no NRL matches played during the Origin period – a …
Penrith’s slide from the top of the NRL ladder to fifth place and consecutive losses by St George Illawarra have strengthened calls for State of Origin to be played as back-to-back fixtures while the Telstra Premiership takes a break.
Familiarity – not fatigue – is the main reason the Dragons and Panthers have struggled during the Origin period, as their NSW and Queensland stars have been available for training on just a handful of occasions since the teams for the series opener were announced on Monday, May 28.
At that stage, Penrith and St George Illawarra were at the head of the competition ladder, with the Dragons surrendering the outright lead after losing their round 12 clash with the Panthers just two days earlier.
In the six weeks since, Origin stars Ben Hunt, Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan, Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims have attended Dragons training just five times, and four of those sessions were captain’s runs the day before a game. Each of those sessions comprised of 30 minutes of light running, with little defensive work.
It is a similar story at Penrith, who have lost three of their five matches in the six weeks since Nathan Cleary, James Maloney, Tyrone Peachey and Reagan Campbell-Gillard were chosen in the Blues team for Origin I.
St George Illawarra have lost their past two matches to Melbourne and Wests Tigers after two-point wins over bottom of the table Parramatta and Canterbury, and a 32-8 defeat of Manly in round 15.
Origin stars Ben Hunt, Tyson Frizell, Paul Vaughan, Jack de Belin and Tariq Sims have attended Dragons training just five times in the last six weeks
In comparison, Melbourne have come through the Origin period without losing a match for the first time in the club’s 20-year history and are now second. There is no doubt the Storm benefited from Cameron Smith’s sudden representative retirement.
South Sydney, who had four players involved in Origin this season, also won all five of their matches. On Saturday they claimed the outright lead of the competition after recording a ninth consecutive with a 24-6 defeat of the Bulldogs.
While many believe the main impact of high Origin representation on clubs is the fatigue suffered by the Blues and Maroons players, coaches complain about the disruption to their preparation for matches.
The Dragons are a team whose rise this season was built around extensive repetition and practice, along with the familiarity of a squad which barely changed until Origin.
None of their players spent excessive time on the field in Origin III, with Frizell and Hunt each playing 50 minutes, Sims and de Belin getting 34 and 33 minutes respectively off the interchange bench and Vaughan receiving a 25 minute stint at the start of the match.
However, with their halfback and four of the starting forward pack absent from training for an extended period, St George Illawarra have looked disjointed and been relying on individual performances in recent weeks.
So far this season, St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has used just 23 players in 17 matches, including five rookies who played in the 52-30 loss to the Storm. That places them alongside Canberra, who have also used just 23 players, as the club’s to have made the lowest number of changes.
Of the other teams in the top eight, the Rabbitohs have used 24 players, while the Panthers, Sharks, Warriors and Broncos have each used 27 players and the Storm and Roosters have used 28.
Significantly, Penrith recorded a 36-4 win over the Warriors and the Broncos thrashed the Titans 34-0 in round 17 after preparing to play without their Origin stars. Both teams suffered defeats last weekend.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson decided to rest his NSW stars Boyd Cordner, James Tedesco and Latrell Mitchell, as well as Cooper Cronk, from Sunday night’s match against Gold Coast and blooded the rookies – Sean O’Sullivan, Paul Momirovski, Matt Ikuvalu and Poasa Faamausili – who had been training in their places.
O’Sullivan, Momirovski and Faamausili scored tries as the Roosters triumphed 20-12 to leapfrog the Panthers into the top four.
Robinson supports Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett’s plan to establish June as State of Origin month and play the series as back-to-back games, with 10-day break between each.
The Roosters mentor recently suggested the Telstra Premiership be reduced to 20 rounds, with no NRL matches played during the Origin period – a concept also backed by Penrith General Manager Phil Gould.
It is likely Dragons coach Paul McGregor would also support Origin being confined to a period free of NRL matches to minimise the disruption to teams.
The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.