Coach hails ‘toughest half-back he’s ever seen’ playing ‘phenomenal’ rugby league

James Gordon
George Williams

He sits at the top of the Man of Steel leaderboard after guiding his Warrington side to six wins out of six.

George Williams, now 28, appears at the peak of his powers and will be a sure contender in the race to be named the best player in Super League at the end of the season.

Such has been his early season form, especially off the back of an impressive World Cup showing for England, Williams has been linked with a return to the NRL.

His big move to Canberra Raiders turned sour in 2021, when he was apparently forced out of the door after expressing concerns over homesickness.

Wigan wanted to bring Williams back to the DW Stadium after his stint Down Under, but he chose to pursue a new challenge with Warrington.

He made a dream debut for the Wolves, scoring the match-winning drop goal in a 27-26 win against Leeds at Headingley, but the season ended in disappointment as Steve Price’s side bowed out of the play-offs early.

But 2022 proved an even bigger struggle, as Warrington slumped to an 11th placed finish and England suffered a heartbreaking golden point extra time loss in the World Cup semi-final against Samoa.

George Williams is “playing phenomenal rugby league”

Coach Daryl Powell, himself a half-back during his playing days, was purring over the England international after his showing in their 38-0 thumping of Castleford last weekend.

The dominance of Warrington’s pack laid the perfect platform for Williams to run at the line, and he had a hand in setting up a handful of scores as well as getting over for one himself.

His hard work saw him hit the ball up even on occasion, and his short kicking game really turned the screw on Castleford early in the second half.

Powell said: “He’s got a massive cut above his eye. He’s one of if not the toughest half-backs I’ve ever seen, to be honest.

“The way he comes onto the ball in yardage – he took two in yardage at one point because our middles were struggling.

“At the moment, he’s just playing so well.

“He defends well and is a great leader – he’s grown so much and is playing phenomenal rugby league.

“He’s been phenomenal, his combination with (Josh Drinkwater) has been great. Drinky is controlling a lot of what we do but George is organising really well and he’s come back from the World Cup with a real voice and leadership.

“The way he’s playing, he’s been world-class at the start of the season. George is George; he’s honest, he’s durable and he’s got so many strings to his bow.”

His form certainly hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst Powell’s rivals in Super League either.

Huddersfield boss Ian Watson praised Williams for his impact in the Wolves’ win at the John Smith’s Stadium.

Watson said:  “There’s a difference of levels of players. George is a high, high quality player, and he doesn’t generally miss things and he picks them out.

“I think I’ve seen it this week where somebody said, I think Phil Clarke said, in the first two weeks of the season, he looks like a Man of Steel. He definitely is at this moment in time, the way he’s played, and the way he’s picking things at this moment in time.”

Thriving behind a dominant pack

Williams, as all of his team mates did, copped for criticism during Warrington’s dismal campaign, but proved his doubters wrong on the international stage.

With Warrington’s recruitment drive seemingly paying dividends at the start of 2023, he finds himself in a much better environment for success.

He had already put 2022 behind him with positive displays behind England’s pack.

Williams told The Mirror: “Some people will say you’re the best, some will say you’re the worst. You just have to stick to your process and know what works for you. It has been a difficult year for me but I am really enjoying playing in this (England) team.

“Look, I’m not going to slag off any of my Warrington team-mates. Every one of us is accountable. You can’t just put what happened on anyone. We’re all accountable as players but the pack I’ve got here is pretty special and it makes my job a lot easier.”

Williams said it was the pinnacle of his career to captain his country – that may change if he’s the key man as Warrington end their 67-year league title drought.

READ MORE: George Williams on World Cup heartache and his verdict on Shaun Wane’s future