Pencil it in your diaries, Saturday 2nd December, Brisbane, it could be the day one of the brightest young stars in Super League makes the leap from potential to world class.
Whilst Castleford Tigers have undoubtedly been the team to watch so far this season, there’s no doubt the man of the moment is young Wigan stand-off George Williams.
Still only 22 and fast approaching 100 games in Cherry and White, Williams already looks like he could be the key man for England at the World Cup, which gets underway down under on the 27th October with England taking on hosts Australia.
He started out, like many other star names in the Wigan ranks, at Wigan St Patricks, before signing for the Warriors in 2012. Other names to start at St Pats include the likes of club captain Sean O’loughlin and Sam Tomkins. He made his debut for Wigan in a cup game against Leigh in 2013, the year Wigan won the double, and his career has gone on from strength to strength since then.
In the early part of his career at the DW Stadium, he had to make the most of his opportunities in the first team as he had Matty Smith and Blake Green ahead of him, playing from the bench at Old Trafford in 2014. Green’s move back to the NRL gave Williams his real chance and he became a regular in the Wigan side in 2015, culminating in being named Young Player of the Year.
The fact Wigan did not sign a replacement for the influential Green showed just how much head coach Shaun Wane thought of the young playmaker and it is a debt he has paid back with interest. I thought Wane was making a mistake not replacing Green at the time but it is obvious the Warriors boss knew the talent he already had waiting in the wings, as usual he was proved absolutely spot on. You can tell Williams learnt a lot from Green, a flat pass he made to Liam Farrell in the win at Warrington last week was a trademark for Green in his time in Super League.
Williams was a key member of the Wigan side that won the Grand Final last year and was, for me anyway, the man of the match when Wigan won the World Club Challenge last month.
I have to be honest, I like many others put Williams behind Ryan Hampshire when they burst onto the scene as teenagers earlier in the decade, but George has gone onto another level and after world glory with his club and there is now the chance for ultimate glory with his country.
The former St Pat played in the first two tests against the Kiwis in 2015, before being dropped for the kicking game of Matty Smith in the rain at Wigan in the final test, as England won the three match series against the then world no.1 side. Williams also played against Scotland in the Four Nations last year, but surely now he is in pole position to claim the number 6 jersey for the ‘wall of white’ when it matters most at the end of the year.
His form so far this season has been outstanding, against Cronulla in the World Club Challenge it was a Joe Burgess hat-trick that got the headlines, but it was Williams that stole the show. He was the best player on the pitch as Wigan won back the trophy that had eluded them since 1994.
He keeps getting better and against Leigh in atrocious conditions, he was the architect behind all of the Wigan tries and last week he was in unstoppable form as his club brushed aside last year’s League Leaders’ Shield winners.
Every time he had the ball last week you thought something was going to happen and he was a nightmare for the Wire back line all night.
Obviously there’s a massive step up in class from Super League to a World Cup down under, but the signs are good and the stage is set. With household names like Cameron Smith and Johnathan Thurston surely playing in their last tournament, this could be the ideal opportunity to turn the tables on the Green and Gold and put 40 years of hurt behind us.
We’ll have to get to the final first, but I saw nothing at the Four Nations to suggest that we can’t get past the Kiwis, I still to this day fail to see how we lost to them at Huddersfield last October and that would set up the match of a generation against our greatest rival.
With another season of Super League behind him, it could be the ideal moment for Williams to show the world how good he really is on the greatest stage of all in front of millions watching on both sides of the globe.
The well grounded Wiganer is living the dream, winning trophies with his hometown club, who knows what the future holds? There is sure to be the offer of megabucks to play in the NRL, whether he wants to go there is a matter for him but I’m sure he would go with the best wishes of club and fans, but with our great game crying out for another superstar, we may just have found him.
Whisper it quietly, but Saturday 2nd December really could be… St George’s Day.