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George Williams playing for England in the 2017 World Cup.

Canberra's prize playmaking recruit George Williams left his hometown club in tears, for a coach he's still yet to meet in the flesh.

Williams will be front and centre in England's Downer World Cup 9s campaign from Friday, with Raiders fans getting an early preview of the 24-year-old in both the new tournament and Lions tour that follows.

Negotiations around his release from Wigan dragged on throughout 2019 as both clubs haggled over a six-figure transfer fee, with Williams and Ricky Stuart sizing each other up through late-night and early-morning phone calls.

When Williams' three-year Canberra deal was finally confirmed in July he could finally "stop dodging questions in the street" and deliver the news to his teammates, prompting unexpected waterworks for the English half.

"When I told the boys I was leaving I had a bit of a cry in front of the team, it was strange for me as I've not done anything like that before," Williams told

"I got up and thought I would be fine and then the next minute the tears are rolling and it made me realise how much Wigan and everything meant to me.

"Then after my last game, some of my closest mates and I were there bawling as well.

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"We had lost the semi-final and were obviously disappointed, but the fact I wouldn't be playing again with them for Wigan hit home.

"I've been there since I was 12. That's 12 years and it's half of my life.

"I was a Wigan fan growing up so it's basically been my whole life.

"I'm very fortunate in what I've done, I've managed to play for Wigan 180 times, I've won grand finals and I've achieved that dream. This is the next one I want to pursue."

That pursuit was a possibility two years ago when NRL clubs were sounding out Williams' agent about bringing him Down Under, Wayne Bennett in particular endorsing him as a No.7 of considerable promise.

On the Raiders end of negotiations Stuart had glowing appraisals from English recruits John Bateman, Josh Hodgson, Ryan Sutton and Elliott Whitehead.

Recruitment manager Peter Mulholland also goes back years with Williams' dad Peter, who last month took charge of the West Coast Pirates SG Ball side in Perth.

"All discussions with George were done over the phone," Mulholland told

"But I've known his dad for a long time and he's a great bloke so that made it a lot easier, we knew the type of character we'd have with George.

"Pete's a pretty astute football coach in his own right.

"He's been at Wigan and Warrington and he thought it was a good opportunity for his boy to get out and prove himself out here in the best competition in the world."

Already the likes of Peter Sterling have declared Williams could take Canberra one step further than this year's grand final appearance.

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The expectation sits refreshingly easily with Williams.

"It's a fair call that, but that's what I'm looking forward to," he said.

"That's why I'm here, to test myself and challenge myself in the best league in the world.

"Speaking to Sticky, he talked about the culture of the club and where he wants to take the team.

"And I think it was easy for Sticky, he just said 'if you don't believe me just speak to the boys' (referring to Canberra's English connection).

"And they backed it up, painted the perfect picture.

"To see them hit the ground running has been great.

"I believed in them definitely, but I didn't think they'd go as well as they have, so quickly.

"I always knew they'd make a real go of it long term but I think Canberra as a club has obviously helped them and hopefully I can fit in there too."


For ticket and travel packages for the Downer Rugby League World Cup 9s Sydney 2019, head to

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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