George Williams will be Wigan’s key man if they are to upset the odds and down Sydney Roosters in the World Club Challenge showdown on Sunday.
That’s according to rugby league legend Martin Offiah – a man who has played in the colours of both Wigan and Sydney and knows more than enough about performing on the big stage.
While Wigan have had a mixed start to the season with one win and one defeat, Offiah waxed lyrical about 24-year-old stand-off Williams’ sparkling performance against the Rhinos on Friday, as his running game and kicking quality left Leeds chasing shadows in the Warriors’ 34-16 win.
And if the Warriors are to emerge victorious on home soil against a fearsome Roosters outfit, Offiah believes Williams is the man to inspire them to an historic triumph.
“I thought George Williams had a fantastic game against Leeds and put his hand up as a potential Man of Steel candidate,” said Offiah. “This is a game for him to shine, now.
“This is the world stage and I think he’s going to have to have a good game.
“His short kicking game against Leeds was among the best I’ve ever seen. It’s up there with the like of Joey Johns and anything you see in the NRL.
“He’s going to have to have a big game – we’ll need leadership from Thomas Leuluai as well. His experience will come into play.
“I was really impressed with Joe Bullock, too. He was really strong and I will be expecting a lot from him.
“As long as we take it to them in the forwards as we usually do, with a good short-kicking game, anything can happen.”
Offiah enjoyed a prolific four-year stint at Wigan, averaging more than a try a game, as well as two spells at the Roosters, who were then named Eastern Suburbs, in 1989 and 1993.
The former winger has fond memories of turning over Australian opposition in the showpiece encounter, playing a starring role for Wigan in their inspiring win against the odds against Brisbane Broncos in 1994.
Nicknamed ‘Chariots’ due to his surname and searing pace, Offiah recalls channelling the fear on a June evening 25 years ago as the Lancashire outfit powered to a 20-14 victory in what was a stunning success against the dominant force in the sport at the time.
“The 1994 final was a great evening,” added Offiah. “We went into that game with a lot of fear if I remember correctly, but that fear was a great motivator – we were away from home, there was a siege mentality, no-one gave us a chance of winning that game and it goes down as one of the greatest victories by an English team on Australian soil to this day.
“I’m very proud to be involved with that, it was a great evening. It was a bit surreal – I remember a lot of smoke, they had a lot of smoke cannons off, and I think the whole match was played in a bit of a haze – it was like a battleground.
“I got spear tackled on numerous occasions and I think I’m still suffering from a couple of knocks to this day!
“But it was all worth it to lift that trophy and to make those memories and create that legacy for Wigan was fantastic.”
Wigan Warriors take on the Sydney Roosters in the Betfred World Club Challenge as the world’s two best rugby league sides go head-to-head at the DW Stadium on Sunday February 17th, kick-off 7pm. Secure your seat today by calling the DW Stadium ticket office on 01942 311111 or visiting https://wiganwarriors.com/tickets
By Jimmy Booker