Happier T-Rex primed to unleash on Maroons
Canterbury wrecking ball Tony 'T-Rex' Williams is in a happy place right now, and that can only be bad for Queensland.
For Williams it starts at club level. Criticised from all quarters after a slow start to his career in blue and white last year, Williams seemed frustrated at not being able to immediately reproduce the form he showed at Manly – form that resulted in Origin and Test appearances in 2012.
When he sits down for a chat with NRL.com in the cafe of the Coffs Harbour Novotel during the Blues' Origin camp, Williams seems, like the rest of his teammates, to be relaxed yet focused. And he thanks the love he feels from his Bulldogs teammates for getting him there.
"I think the big thing with our team at the Bulldogs, this year more than last year, we're very tight," 25-year-old Williams says in that soft voice that belies his massive 118 kilogram, 6'4" frame.
"There's more love in the joint, which has shown in our game. We're like brothers on the field, we're doing everything for each other, everyone's working hard. When everyone's happy it makes your job easier. It's a bit easier this year than it was last year."
The loss of teammate Frank Pritchard to a long-term pectoral injury was a massive blow for the club, but it may have played a role in the resurgence of T-Rex – heaping more responsibility onto his massive shoulders, increasing his minutes and workload, and giving him more time on his preferred left edge of the field.
"Frankie plays a big part in what we're becoming and to lose him early in the year is a big loss," Williams says.
"It's a challenge for our team and obviously for myself to see where we're at. But it's good to challenge yourself; minutes don't matter, it's making a difference on the field – that's what I try to do. I try to do that for my teammates and if I can do that I think I've done my job."
His job is about more than just numbers, but the numbers themselves aren't too bad for Williams in 2014: 116 metres per game, three tries, three line break assists, and 15 offloads. And no forward in the NRL has more than Williams' massive 37 tackle breaks, which underscore how difficult he has been to bring down and suggest he may be returning to that vintage form.
Blues coach Laurie Daley said back at the NSW team announcement he was planning to use Williams in an impact role rather than the long stints he's currently producing at club level, and Williams says the Blues mentor has made it simple for him.
"He's going to use me in short spurts, and to just make the most of it when I'm on there. When I get on I need to make a difference, whether I turn the momentum around, I just need to get myself in there."
He says the love in the Bulldogs camp extends to the Blues squad, and he's delighted to be there alongside three of those clubmates in halves Josh Reynolds and Trent Hodkinson and centre Josh Morris.
Earlier in the week Reynolds spoke in glowing terms of Williams' return to form.
"Everyone was into him at the start when he first came [to the Bulldogs in 2013], but people don't realise he had to change his style," Reynolds said.
"He was doing it for the team and a lot of people don't realise that. I think it's more now he's pumped for his role and he knows what's going on. He's been playing some great footy and I hope he shows everyone on Wednesday what a great player he is."
And Reynolds had a final warning for the Maroons – he thinks we probably haven't yet seen the best of Williams in 2014.
"He's been great, he's played for his state, played for his country. He's so massive and so damaging, he's got plenty [more] to show I think."