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Sport The drunken phone call that sealed George Williams' move to Canberra

00:55  07 june  2020
00:55  07 june  2020 Source:   smh.com.au

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This phone call was his way of saying, 'Hurry up and get it done'. We started to get things done after that call . George Williams celebrates a Canberra try during the Raiders' big win over the Storm in round 3. Credit:AAP. "Elliott is still happy to tell anyone how he's one of our recruitment managers and

Getting a phone call is even worse: it feels like being hijacked, or thrust on stage at the Albert Hall I remember an hour-long argument with the phone company when I moved into my flat, on being Accustomed to the friendly chimes and dings of messages and email, the sound of one’s phone

George Williams of the Raiders in action during the round 1 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Titans at GIO Stadium on March 13, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. © Mark Nolan/Getty Images George Williams of the Raiders in action during the round 1 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the Gold Coast Titans at GIO Stadium on March 13, 2020 in Canberra, Australia. There have been plenty of stories written about Canberra halfback George Williams this past week, including the hilarious YouTube footage of him making one of the worst tackles in Super League history, his fake teeth and quirky ritual of never tying up his bootlaces.

But the one story that still gets a giggle down in the nation's capital is the drunken phone call from a pub in the north of England that paved the way for Williams to join the NRL.

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Elliott Whitehead often calls Canberra coach Ricky Stuart after a few pints celebrating or commiserating an England Test win or loss.

"He usually waits until he's had about six pints before he calls me," Stuart told The Sun-Herald. "You can never understand him - I can't understand him at the best of times, let alone after six or eight pints.

"But he called this night after an England Test win [against New Zealand at the end of 2018] - he was with Johnny Bateman and basically telling me we had to sign this bloke George Williams.

"We were already watching George. I often talk to Elliott about a lot of the players over there and he knew we were interested in George. This phone call was his way of saying, 'Hurry up and get it done'. We started to get things done after that call.

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"Elliott is still happy to tell anyone how he's one of our recruitment managers and he's p***ed off [Canberra chief executive] Donnie [Furner] won't pay him any commission."

Stuart has often praised the club's official scout, Peter Mulholland, but always turned to Whitehead for his English insight.

Plenty of forwards had ventured to the other side of the planet and succeeded in the world's toughest rugby league competition, but the strike rate was not as impressive for Englishmen in playmaking positions. Stuart, however, knew after a few summer training sessions that Williams had what it takes.

"As soon as he did some training and scrimmaging with us in the off-season, I was really confident he'd handle the NRL," Stuart said of his 25-year-old Wigan export.

"There was a lot of speculation we didn't have a ballplayer and we had two running halves with Jack Wighton. But I sat the boys down and told them I couldn't be happier with two running halves and I'll coach to their strengths. That's how we're now shaping our game.

"Hopefully by the end of the season the combination George and Jack have built there will be some longevity there."

Premiership favourites Canberra are the only NRL club forced to fly to their "home" games with the NRL agreeing to their request to charter a flight from Canberra to Bankstown Airport on Sunday, which will save them a five-hour round trip from Canberra to Campbelltown to face Newcastle. They will still have to catch a bus home after the game, however.

Williams fronted a Zoom conference call with the media during the week, but subtitles were almost needed because of his thick northern England accent.

"I've had some media this week and you've got to take it all in your stride a little bit," he said. "I will enjoy the moment. It was one good game, I have to back that up now."

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