Williams injury free and with a point to prove
Four months after facing NRL extinction, Tony Williams is back at the Eels and hopeful his past three injury-ravaged seasons have actually prolonged his time in the game.
Dubbed "T-Rex" when he burst on to the scene as a hulking winger a decade ago, it was Parramatta once more who handed Williams an NRL lifeline after an ACL rupture limited him to just one game with Cronulla last year.
That knee reconstruction, a season-ending pectoral injury, other bumps and niggles and a recent two-game suspension for drink driving have limited the 29-year-old to just 33 of a possible 77 games since 2015.
Williams has long been a 120kg lightning rod for criticism given the devastating play he is capable of, yet has seldom shown since his premiership days at Manly.
But having jagged a surprise starting spot in the Eels' under fire pack, which he has held for Saturday's crucial trip to Canberra, Williams declared he is in the best shape of his life and has seen the silver lining to his recent years spent on the sidelines.
"My weight is the lowest it has been for a while," Williams said.
"I’m feeling the best I’ve felt. My fitness is good, but when it comes to match fitness it is a different game.
Asked if his wretched injury run could potentially extend his career, Williams agreed.
"The body isn’t battered or bruised. It’s just those niggling injuries that I need to keep on top of. But I’m playing every week like it is my last.”
Last year's knee reconstruction shot down any chance of an extension to Williams' one-year Sharks deal, while almost all the interest in his services came from English Super League – not ideal with three young kids.
Regardless, the former Test and Origin back-rower never doubted his ability to get back to the top level. Or earn himself another contract at the Eels, though he won't entertain talks until he's spent a bit more time on the paddock.
"I’d love to stay at Parra, but I’ve just got to keep playing consistently," Williams said.
“You see all these young kids coming up and most of them are bigger than me now (laughs), so I’ve got to step my game up.
“But if I play to my potential every week, I can’t see why I can’t get another contract.
“I want to string a few good games in a row and then we can start talking."