Canberra Raiders halfback Sam Williams.

Williams gets Raiders starting berth over Austin

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has sprung a first-round selection shock with Sam Williams named in the starting side consigning Blake Austin to the bench.

The returning Williams was given a solid chance to press his claims, playing 65 minutes against the Canterbury Bulldogs in the Green Machine's only pre-season trial game.

However, the 26-year-old said he never got ahead of himself about possibly unseating the incumbent Austin.

"Even up until training a couple of weeks ago, I didn't think I was a certainty to start in round one," Williams said.

"Losing (Josh Hodgson) Hodgo has changed the dynamic of the team and Ricky looked to that and thought I could play a role in the team and that role is starting footy games."

Williams expects Austin, who said earlier this pre-season he is the fittest he has ever been, to have a huge impact on the side when he is eventually unleashed in the first half in a roving capacity.

"Ricky obviously sees a role I can play in the side, I guess Blake is more dynamic off the bench than I am," he said.

"I'm not sure how his rotations are going to work, that first 20 or 30 minutes it's important to get into the game and the combinations are always fairly difficult for round one.

Canberra Raiders hooker Siliva Havili.
Canberra Raiders hooker Siliva Havili. ©Scott Davis / NRL Photos

"So, if we can start well and give Blake to come on and make his mark, which I am sure he will, it will put us in a good position."

Williams could not say for certain if the experiment was merely to take advantage of something the coaching staff identified in the Gold Coast Titans side this weekend, or if the change would be more permanent.

However, the Cooma junior said he knows if the change is not resulting in wins, Stuart would not hesitate to alter the side again.

"No doubt everybody wants to be starting the game of football, but the minutes you play could vary from week to week," Williams said.

"I don't think it really matters what's happening the next week, every time you go out on the field you're expecting to play your best football and to win the game.

"It shouldn't matter who's following or who's coming for your jersey you're just wanting to win."

Despite being back at the Raiders for his third time, the personnel and style of play have not changed drastically, helping Williams slot into the halves and link up again with Aidan Sezer.

The duo last played together two seasons ago, and according to Williams, the pair have not missed a beat in pre-season.

Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin.
Canberra Raiders utility Blake Austin. ©Scott Davis / NRL Photos/Scott Davis / NRL Photos

"He's a good talker on the field and a left foot as well, which gives us another option with our kicking game," Williams said of Sezer.

"I have played enough footy with Blake and Aidan to understand what my role is and what I can do when they are on the field."

Stuart has spoken highly about his halves taking on the extra role of practising in the hooking role following Hodgson's injury.

However, Williams said he did not see himself playing closer to the ruck anytime soon backing Siliva Havili to play well in possibly extended minutes this weekend.

"Away from the field he's a quiet guy, but out there he's got some good aggression and good talk and I think his service is pretty clean, so I am sure he'll be keen to play for his new club on the weekend."