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George Williams tells all to the Sydney Daily Telegraph


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George Williams broke down in the arms of Raiders coach Ricky Stuart. The Raiders halfback had put on a brave face but he was finally at breaking point as he battled homesickness and a desire to return to his native England at the end of the season, despite a year remaining on his contract.

He said all he wanted “was some help, a bit of guiding and talking to” but instead he was shown the door.

Williams said he first approached the club in April detailing his restlessness.

For weeks he tried to brush off what he was thinking, believing he would snap out of the funk. But it reached the point where his mental health was deteriorating and Williams asked for a release from the final year of his deal so he could go home.

At first he felt supported, but in a matter of weeks Williams had played his last game as a Raider when the club released him after a “20 second phone call” on May 25. It came on the same day he requested a day off from training.

Williams sat down at a Canberra cafe with Michael Carayannis to finally break his silence before he flew back to England on Friday, just halfway through his three-year contract at the club.

 

THE MEETINGS

Williams had been privately dealing with his mental anguish. With a pregnant partner – due to give birth in September – he had been wrestling with the idea of asking the Raiders to release him from the final year of his contract.

“The first conversation happened in round five when I sat down with (coach) Ricky (Stuart) and the club’s welfare officer,” Williams said.

“I told them I wasn’t in a good spot and that I might want a release at the end of year. The conversation couldn’t have gone any better with the club and Ricky. The way they handled it I thought ‘happy days’.

“They were open to me going at the end of the year. They asked me to get through this year so I was positive how that came out.”

As time progressed Williams felt little difference. This time he made it official and asked for a release at season’s end.

“The situation wasn’t improving,” Williams said.

“They were talking about bringing my family out which was not just doable. It wasn’t a false promise but with the pandemic it just wasn’t going to work. I put it to my mum and sister – they were willing to do that but it just wasn’t doable.

“At first it was a discussion but when I went in and said ‘please will you release me at the end of the year’. The club changed its tune. They said ‘no, we can’t find another halfback’. I get it’s a business and they need to do what’s best for the club.

“But they went from the first meeting where they said ‘thanks, you gave us plenty of time to look elsewhere’ which I thought I did. It just spiralled rapidly.

“There were four or five conversations before I asked for a release. It wasn’t like I was giving up straight away after one conversation.”

Williams’ camp asked for a release on a handful of occasions which were rejected by the club.

“The longer it went on the worse it got with the club,” Williams said.

“From being understanding to a deadset no. They were saying it wasn’t that hard and people deal with homesickness. They made out I was in the wrong by feeling the way I was.”

TEXT AND CALLS

The situation came to a dramatic head on the Tuesday before the club’s round 12 clash against the Roosters. Williams trained on Monday but sent a text to the club’s welfare officer on Tuesday morning telling him he needed the day off. His manager had asked for a release again the night before.

“I sent a message saying ‘I had a bit going on at home and I’m feeling pretty down and not in a good head space for training’,” Williams said.

“It wasn’t a random message. It took about five weeks before I did that. That was weeks and weeks of discussions and hour meetings with the club about how I was feeling. I didn’t just drop it on them one day telling them I wasn’t coming in. They knew the reasons. They knew how I was feeling.

“Everyone knows me, I’m a nice person. I love training and I work hard. For me not to go to training shows where I was mentally. I love my job. It showed how low I was. I got to breaking point. That’s the first time I’ve ever missed training. I’ve never had a day off.

“That’s when the hit the fan. I don’t think they thought it was that serious. I broke down. I’m a grown man who broke down in a meeting. What else did they need to see to know I was serious?

“I think they thought it would go away. It didn’t.”

FALLOUT WITH THE CLUB

After texting the club’s welfare officer, Williams was asked to ring Stuart. The pair had a great relationship, according to Williams. But things soured after Williams opted out of training.

“I rang Ricky and he told me he needed me in,” Williams said. “I said ‘I get that and I know you need your halfback at training but I needed to be off today. I’m just being dead honest’.

“He said ‘right, OK’ and that was that. He didn’t seem happy. Ricky then text me saying ‘do you feel up to playing this weekend’. I wrote back saying ‘I’m sick of pretending everything is OK when it’s not’. And then I never heard from him ever again.

“I haven’t had a text or phone call. He made out he was my mate and there for me. I genuinely believed he was. Forget rugby league – as a person he hasn’t reached out to me once. I haven’t rung him either.

“That’s where I have a sour taste in my mouth. I went to his house on Christmas Day and he was brilliant. When it’s going good, it’s going good but when it got messy it shows what he thinks of me.

“It hurts when you think you have a relationship with someone. I’m not going to bag him the whole time. Before all this happened, I couldn’t speak any more highly of him. He was brilliant. That’s what hurt me so much. The way he has dealt with my situation. It’s changed my opinion

“Two staff members have reached out – the kit man and a member of the coaching staff.” Stuart confirmed the relationship had soured when contacted by The Saturday Telegraph.

“George is 100 per cent right,” Stuart said.

“I don’t know many relationships that have longevity on mistrust.”

THE AXE

Canberra boss Don Furner called Williams about an hour after his conversation with Stuart.

“When the phone rang I thought he was going to ask how I was,” Williams said. “I didn’t answer the phone nervously. The phone call must’ve lasted 20 seconds. He said ‘if it’s that hard for you mate, we can grant you your wish and you can leave now’. I said ‘I didn’t ask to leave now’.

“That happened about 1030-11am and by 4pm I was released. It had gone from asking for a day off to being sacked.

“They announced that I’d been released but I hadn’t signed anything, spoken to or seen anyone. I had no choice. That was me out the door without any say. I have not heard from any of them since. “All I’ve heard from the club was that they’d be taking legal action.”

The parties eventually sorted a severance package.

LEAKS, BEACHES AND ‘REFUSING’ TO PLAY

Williams was hesitant to tell his story. But with his reputation taking a battering he wanted to set the record straight.

It was said the club had concerns Williams would return to England at season’s end and never comeback.

“I never once said that to the club,” Williams said. “They were believing their own storyline and maybe that’s what they thought I would do. I did tell them my missus was also really struggling mentally to process coming back with a baby and zero family or support.

“I was preparing to potentially come back and fulfil my contract. They offered me a four month break in England which was a great gesture but this was a short-term fix. I was then trying to get my head around coming back by myself for eight months because I didn’t want my partner here also struggling with a newborn and no help. If so I would’ve missed that time with my newborn baby but if that’s what I had to do, I would’ve.

“I had in my head that I was coming back for eight months on my own, which was sending me into a spiral. I was going to miss my little baby grow up. That was a massive thing.

“It was worse in my head and it was snowballing. When you’re down, that’s what you do, you over-think. I didn’t see the end of it.

“If there was no Covid-19 I would have 100 per cent seen out my contract. I don’t doubt that for one second.”

Ex-teammate John Bateman recently highlighted a leaking problem at the club. Williams agreed.

“I believe 100 per cent that the first homesick report came from within,” Williams said. “I hadn’t told any of the lads or my agent. It was just the club.

“As soon as it hit the media, that’s when I was off them a little bit. They promised me it wasn’t them.

“They made out I was kicking stones and I would never do that. A lot of trust was lost.

“I was crying in the room telling them how I feel and that gets leaked. You thought you had that trust and bond. It’s so disappointing as a club. I booked through the club that I was going to the Gold Coast on the bye weekend. It was leaked that I was on the Gold Coast but that was false. I booked it thinking I would still be at the club but then I cancelled it. It was someone trying to put me in a bad light.

“People said I wanted to join a beachside club. Canberra has not got a beach, nor has Wigan. I don’t know where that came from. I was missing home, the beach wasn’t going to fix homesickness.”

Former Raider John Bateman, pictured left with Jordan Rapana, has pointed to issues with leaking at the club. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

SUPPORT

Teammate Ryan Sutton cleaned out Williams’ locker for him. Williams has not walked into the Raiders precinct since a review session the day before he called in sick. His teammates have rallied around him and hosted a farewell lunch on Wednesday. Josh Hodgson has been vocal in his support publicly and behind closed doors.

“Within a day my name was down on my locker,” Williams said. “Josh put his neck on the line for me with what he came out and said. The club probably didn’t like what he said. Having that support has been brilliant. He has had my back since I first arrived in Australia. I knew he was right behind me but the support he has shown through countless text messages and phone calls in the past few weeks has helped me significantly. As much as this sounds phony, the support of the players shows me that I’m a decent person. I enjoyed my time there and all the boys did get around me. That’s why I’m sad. It’s the best bunch I’ve worked with.”

FUTURE

Williams flew out with his partner Charlotte on Friday bound for the UK. He has been linked with a switch to Warrington and is expected to return to the field when England play the Exiles on Friday after England coach Shaun Wane reached out.

“I am going to take so many positives from coming here,” Williams said. “It was a challenge. I questioned if I was good enough to play in the NRL. From 15 I wanted to play in the NRL. I ticked that box. I proved to myself I can play at that standard. That’s a massive tick and dream (fulfilled). I’m just happy I held my own and did OK.

“I would never rule out an NRL return. It’s just a matter of going home now and giving my family a big hug.”

https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/sport/nrl/teams/raiders/nrl-2021-george-williams-breaks-his-silence-on-his-messy-canberra-raiders-exit/news-story/9063c4e14de6399db92c0ba7b8cdb907

George Williams and partner Charlotte. Picture: Instagram

George and Partner Charlotte

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When the pinch comes the common people will turn out to be more intelligent than the clever ones. I certainly hope so.

George Orwell
 

 

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1 hour ago, THE RED ROOSTER said:

Sadly the article is hidden behind a paywall here. Maybe like homesickness it’s hard to see but easy to understand? 🙂

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Doesn’t paint the club in a good light. Nor does it present the club as a go to destination for rising Brits. Certainly not in the way that has been embraced recently at least.

Sounds pretty genuine to me. It has taken this difficult season for me to remember why I don’t like Ricky. He was ok there a while, when the Raiders were flying high. He is a very sore loser and a lot of that article demonstrates that.

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Sad that it came to that. We get a lot of talk about understanding mental problems and acting with understanding and support.

It seems that Canberra’s duty of care was limited and that in the end they put the club and themselves before the welfare of their player.

 

 

 

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  • 1 month later...

Paul Hogan, many years ago told a joke that encapsulates George Williams neatly:

"How do you know when a planeload of Poms arrives at the airport? Easy, they cut the plane's engines but the whining keeps right on going!"

George just kept whining but didn't justify his existence in Canberra at ANY stage. Now that he's gone and the repercussions have died down, they are playing well.. I hope he NEVER gets another Visa to visit Oz! Sam Williams is twice the player and twice the man George will ever be.

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9 hours ago, Madgicsh said:

Paul Hogan, many years ago told a joke that encapsulates George Williams neatly:

"How do you know when a planeload of Poms arrives at the airport? Easy, they cut the plane's engines but the whining keeps right on going!"

George just kept whining but didn't justify his existence in Canberra at ANY stage. Now that he's gone and the repercussions have died down, they are playing well.. I hope he NEVER gets another Visa to visit Oz! Sam Williams is twice the player and twice the man George will ever be.

I’m looking forward to seeing how George Williams plays next season under Daryl Powell at Warrington. Daryl’s the bloke to get he best out of him.

As for Raiders, they still have many British fans due to the number of their countrymen in your squad in recent seasons. Looking at the way Williams was ultimately treated and demeaned widely there was not a good look, well not from here anyway.

I suppose you’ll tell Josh Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead they are ‘whining’ poms too, or is that just a good old Paul Hogan selective thing.

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9 hours ago, Madgicsh said:

Sam Williams is twice the player and twice the man George will ever be.

He really isn’t . I wonder if you’d have that view if George hadn’t left . He was getting picked ahead of him wasnt he ? 

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16 hours ago, Madgicsh said:

Paul Hogan, many years ago told a joke that encapsulates George Williams neatly:

"How do you know when a planeload of Poms arrives at the airport? Easy, they cut the plane's engines but the whining keeps right on going!"

George just kept whining but didn't justify his existence in Canberra at ANY stage. Now that he's gone and the repercussions have died down, they are playing well.. I hope he NEVER gets another Visa to visit Oz! Sam Williams is twice the player and twice the man George will ever be.

You're going to need a lot of salt and vinegar for that chip.

"Men will be proud to say 'I am a European'. We hope to see a day when men of every country will think as much of being a European as of being from their native land." (Winston Churchill)

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