Raider Williams welcomes three-way tussle
Incumbent Canberra halfback Sam Williams has praised his club's intelligent off-season recruitment, despite the fact it looks set to cost him his spot in first grade for the start of the season.
Last year, coach Ricky Stuart abandoned the Mitch Cornish experiment in order to return to the known quantity of Williams after just four games.
Williams rewarded his coach with some steady performances as the Raiders won four of five games following his recall following a 1-3 start, though ultimately just missed out on the top eight courtesy of a late-season slump.
Another solid off-season's recruitment has seen Stuart's squad bolstered by some big names from the Super League but it's the addition of former Titans playmaker Aidan Sezer that has Williams both excited and on notice.
"It's one of those things, I'm under no illusions that it's going to be tough but we're really lucky we've got depth in key positions at the moment," a pragmatic Williams told NRL.com.
"It's one of those things, I just need to work hard and whether I get an opportunity early in the season or late in the season or whenever it is I really just want to be ready for it and everything I can do, make it count."
With injuries all but certain to strike every club at some point during a long season, the fact the Raiders have three NRL-quality halves plus future star Lachie Croker on the books means the side is well-served in terms of playmaking depth.
"We're in a position now where we can all learn off each other and we've all got different strengths and weaknesses. We push each other really hard and Ricky's really good with that as well," Williams said.
"We're starting to do a bit of ball work with each other and just the different combinations and things like that.
"It's been very tough, we've pushed each other and we've now got the depth in key positions it takes to be a force in the competition.
"We need to make sure everyone's buying in and everyone is on the same page and wants this club to be successful so we'll keep pushing each other and whether it's in the Round 1 team or not there's a lot of players here that want to be part of the team and if they get their chance they'll be ready to go."
Asked if he may need to adapt his game depending on whether he was called on to combine with free-running five-eighth Blake Austin or measured halfback Sezer, Williams said: "It's just important when we're training, whatever combination it is we're gelling and there's going to be times throughout the year when we're going to have different opportunities to play with each other so it's about making sure the training we do, we feel comfortable in whatever we're doing, the team feels comfortable with whichever halves are in there and going forward it's just going to really benefit the team over the course of a long competition."
Hooker Josh Hodgson told NRL.com the talk at training so far amongst the slightly new-look playmaking combinations had been a good sign.
"Everybody's gelled really well; our systems are pretty good and we work a lot about talking and making sure we know what we're doing and as long as the halves and myself and 'Jacko' [fullback Jack Wighton] are nice and loud and we all know where we're going then it's usually pretty slick anyway," he said.
With one of Sezer, Austin and Williams set to miss out on a starting halves spot come Round 1, and highly-rated youngster Lachie Croker, former Knights hooker Adam Clydsdale and gun rake Kurt Baptiste among the list of names fighting for one utility bench spot, competition for the 6-7-9 spots is intense.
"It's a great headache for the coach to have I suppose, you have the calibre of players we've got fighting for those two spots is a great headache for 'Stick'," Hodgson said.
"That's what we need, competition for spots and we've got that in the halves and we've got it right throughout every position I'd say so it keeps everybody on their toes."