Former Test and Origin star Tony Williams is set to provide a huge boost for the new North American Rugby League competition after signing with the New York Freedom for the upcoming season.
Williams, who represented Australia and Tonga at international level and played three Origins for NSW, is playing for the Windsor Wolves in the Ron Massey Cup after being released by Manly at the end of last season.
The 32-year-old second-rower is the biggest name recruit yet for the fledgling NARL competition, and follows the recent signing of former South Sydney forward Eddy Pettybourne by the Brooklyn Kings.
Former North Sydney, Balmain, Parramatta and North Queensland star Glenn Morrison, who has been coaching in England and is a member of Jamaica’s off-field staff, has also joined Cleveland as coaching director.
New York Freedom developed from the New York City bid team aiming to join the UK Super League competition and the club announced the signing of Williams on Thursday.
"With over a decade of experience Williams an Australian and Tongan international will play an integral part in the New York side and is a very welcomed addition to the inaugural season of NARL," a statement said.
Panthers v Sea Eagles - Round 8
"When looking at Rugby League careers and the extent of a player's game you can see why we are excited to welcome T-Rex.
"Having started with the Parramatta Eels in 2008, Williams has tackled, tried, and torn up the field with NRL sides Manly Sea Eagles, Canterbury Bulldogs, and Cronulla Sharks along with a stint in the Q-Cup where he was awarded the Duncan Hall Medal.
"Tony, Australian born from Tongan descent has represented both nations on the international stage, the 2008 RL World Cup saw him pull on the Tongan jersey, and later went on to play for Australia, selected for the Prime Ministers XIII closing against Papa New Guinea and for 'The Blues' in the State of Origin.
"Tony brings to New York Freedom a wealth of knowledge, skill, passion for the game and will be an excellent mentor for our younger and less experienced players."
The competition kicks off in June, with Williams's first game for New York expected to be against Cleveland on June 19.