28 May 2021

Did the Raiders do the right thing releasing George Williams immediately?

| Tim Gavel
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George Williams

George Williams will be homeward bound after being released from his contract. Photo: Raiders.

In the history of the Raiders, there have been a couple of instances where what normally is confined to the dressing room or the boardroom has come out into the public arena.

Before this week’s events, the most public airing of what is normally a private club matter was the forced departure of Ricky Stuart and Bradley Clyde in 1998.

The George Williams saga is right up there in terms of visibility, thanks to social media, where the pile-on is unrelenting.

On Tuesday, the Raiders cut Williams. The club released a statement announcing Williams’ departure. Reading between the lines, it appears the Club felt as though they had no option and needed to take a stand.

It’s worth mentioning that the Club might have learnt cautionary lessons from the John Bateman departure at the end of last year after just two seasons.

READ ALSO The Raiders need to grow a ‘spine’ to be premiership contenders

So how did it get to this point with Williams?

The Raiders signed Williams on a three-year deal after paying a $200,000 release fee to his former club, Wigan.

Things went well until the COVID-19 shutdown and the subsequent travel restrictions as he reportedly had become homesick. This was understandable, particularly as his partner was pregnant and family would have offered considerable support at that important time.

In April, he reportedly started talking about a release from the final year of his contract, which was due to finish at the end of the 2022 season.

In the past month, his England-based manager emailed the Raiders several times pushing for his release. The most recent request was on Monday night.

The request was reportedly rejected by the club.

Then on Tuesday morning, he texted the Raiders player welfare manager saying he wouldn’t be at training as he was struggling with mental health issues.

In a follow-up call from Ricky Stuart, he said he wouldn’t be available for Saturday night’s game against the Roosters.

The Raiders then decided to release him immediately, in what it said in a statement, to be in the best interests of the club and the player – as CEO Don Furner explained in a media conference on Friday (28 May).

Williams responded on Twitter by saying that instead of supporting him, the club had kicked him out the door.

From that moment on, the pile-on has been relentless.

Josh Hodgson involved himself in the saga, going public with what was happening behind closed doors. He confirmed he had questioned Stuart in a team meeting as to why Williams had been released immediately.

Hodgson also revealed his own frustrations to News Limited after he was again picked on the bench before suggesting that he may not be at the Raiders next season.

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This latest airing of private grievances comes just weeks after Joe Tapine’s wife had a go at the club’s selection policy.

My reading of the Williams affair is the Raiders needed to take a stand and not allow players and their managers to assume control.

It has left the club without a quality playmaker, but there is now a line in the sand.

The Raiders are determined to build a culture that revolves around having players that want to play for Canberra.

Having said that, there are obviously issues that need to be rectified.

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Capital Retro7:25 pm 30 May 21

What a shame Todd Payten can’t return to the Raiders as coach. The Raiders’ board could do with some refreshing too.

For the Raiders to be successful they need to adopt a similar mindset as the Storm and Roosters.

To do that they need recruit the right people and have a “no dickhead policy”.

Once they recruit the right players those players need to be put into stressful and painful situations during the pre-season. The Storm set the standard for pre-season training and recruitment and have been hugely successful for 20 years.

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