2020 NRL Round 02 - New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders, Cbus Super Stadium, 2020-03-21. Digital image by jason obrien � NRL Photos
2020 NRL Round 02 - New Zealand Warriors v Canberra Raiders, Cbus Super Stadium, 2020-03-21. Digital image by jason obrien � NRL Photos

Fake teeth and loose laces: Meet the NRL’s newest star

George Williams is a yarn right down to his fake teeth.

Or bootlaces.

Doesn't matter which one.

They both come with a story.

"My teeth are from Turkey," the Englishman laughs, referencing a set of veneers which, since purchase two years ago, have instigated plenty of ribbing from mates.

"It's a bit vain, I know. But in Turkey, they're so cheap. Half price, basically."

And the bootlaces?

This new Canberra No.7 never ties them up for games.

Not now with the Raiders, or during almost 200 appearances with Wigan.

"No idea why," Williams concedes. "But for as long as I can remember, I've always just tucked the laces inside my boots."

So they don't fall off in games?

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Williams has impressed in his early days as a Raider. Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images
Williams has impressed in his early days as a Raider. Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

"Oh, plenty of times," he cackles. "But it's what I do.

"Same as in warm up, I always tuck my gum shield into the left sock. Never the right.

"But that's not too weird, is it?"

Absolutely not.

Nor the fact Williams has been ball boy for Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire, been in awe of Trent Barrett and been kept awake nights by fellow Raider Sia Soliola.

But more on all that soon enough.

First, we need to talk about the letter.

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A short, typed note which, without it, means no NRL arrival for Williams.

Likely, no story at all.

"I was 14," the new Raiders says, taking up the yarn. "Only young, but already on scholarship with Wigan.

"And that year, after making both Wigan and North West sides, I then headed to nationals for England selection."

Better, the schoolboy reckoned he was in.

Williams signed with Wigan at 14.
Williams signed with Wigan at 14.

With Williams, even in his teens, already the type of talent who never missed a selection.

Which is why, weeks later when that confirmation letter finally arrived via post, the teenager was ready.

"But I didn't get in," Williams recounts. "I was so cut up. Cried.

"It sounds strange, but 11 years on than feeling remains with me."

Fuels him, too.

"In football, there's so many things you can't control," the 25-year-old continues. "But that rejection letter, I felt it was something I should've had control over.

"So that day, I decided to go away and work harder.

"Ensure I not only made the most of every opportunity at Wigan, but never felt that type of disappointment again.

"Looking back, that letter really changed my approach to everything."

Which again is why, after 10 Tests, two Super League titles and 179 games, Williams is now here in the NRL.

Arrived for a task English halves have never found easy Down Under.

Williams was man of the match against the Storm. AAP Image/Scott Barbour.
Williams was man of the match against the Storm. AAP Image/Scott Barbour.

"And I know people doubt me," he says. "I know there's people saying I'm not good enough.

"But I believe in myself."

Is quickly winning fans, too.

Among them Matty Johns, Peter Sterling, even Brad Fittler, who described the seven's most recent effort against Melbourne a "complete performance" and perfect 10.

Yet England Test coach Shaun Wane, who gave Williams his Wigan debut, he wasn't so sure.

"I think the Aussies went over the top," Wane said of the same Storm effort. "George did some good things but he can have more involvements. If he'd delivered that for me at Wigan, I'd have been into him."

Asked about the critique, the Raiders No.7 laughs: "Waney's a tough task master.

"I've known him a long time, respect him … but he's a coach that when you do bad, he gets into you.

"And I believe what he's saying, too.

"I've only been here three games. I'll have done my job if people are saying the same things after 20."

So while we wait, let us also tell you how this former Wigan ball boy not only walked the sideline for Maguire's 2010 premiership team, but modelled his game on watching, from the same spot, Barrett's two seasons with the club.

Williams has defied expectations so far in his NRL career. Digital image by Jason O’Brien/NRL Photos.
Williams has defied expectations so far in his NRL career. Digital image by Jason O’Brien/NRL Photos.

"Trent was my hero," Williams laughs.

But as for ever telling the now Panthers assistant coach?

"Ah, no," he says. "We met a few years ago in Coogee, when I was here for the World Club Challenge.

"But it was brief and I was embarrassed. I just said hello."

Elsewhere, know Williams was raised a Roosters fan, and by a dad now coaching Perth's new SG Ball team. While during the 2014 Super League decider, he was also trampled for a try by Soliola.

"Have only just forgiven him too," the playmaker jokes. "That moment, it kept me awake nights.

"Sat with me for two years until I won a decider myself."

Which brings us, finally, back to that memory which even after 11 years has never left him.

To a rejection letter which, given its impact, has surely been tucked away, stored, even framed?

"Oh, no," Williams cackles. "Absolutely not.

"That letter, it went straight to the bin."

Originally published as Fake teeth and loose laces: Meet the NRL's newest star


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