Returning Canberra Raiders halfback Sam Williams says a stint in the UK Super League has made him a better player as he prepares to renew his selection battle with Aidan Sezer and Blake Austin.
Williams finalised a two-year deal on Tuesday and will join the Raiders for a third time when pre-season training begins in the coming weeks.
The 26-year-old’s arrival will add crucial playmaker depth to the Raiders after the departure of Lachlan Croker. Former North Queensland halfback Cooper Bambling is also set to move to the capital.
Sezer and Austin have been Canberra’s first-choice halves for the past two years, but Williams says he is ready to mount a challenge after helping Wakefield into the Super 8 stage of the Super League.
“I really enjoyed my 12 months in the Super League, but the chance to come back to the Raiders was always going to be too hard to say no to,” Williams said.
“The opportunity to come back isn’t always going to be there, so I’m excited about what’s to come.
“Sometimes you’ve got to go outside of your comfort zone a little bit and there’s no doubt I’ve grown as a player in the last 12 months.
“You’re learning off different people and different styles. No doubt it’s helped my game. Now it’s about coming back, training hard and giving yourself the best opportunity to be ready to go.”
Williams is part of the Raiders’ off-season plan to reinvigorate the roster after failing to make the finals last season.
Melbourne Storm premiership-winner Brett White has joined the coaching staff, while Dean Pay is now the Canterbury Bulldogs head coach.
Clay Priest looks set to follow Pay to the Bulldogs, while fullback Brad Abbey could link with the Raiders as part of a player swap.
But the club could be searching for more forwards to improve depth after losing Dave Taylor and Scott Sorensen.
Williams, a former under-20s captain, is returning to Canberra for his third stint after making his NRL debut in 2011.
He joined the St George Illawarra Dragons in 2014 followed by a season with the Catalans Dragons in France before returning to the Green Machine.
Williams had the choice of staying in England or joining rival NRL clubs, but decided on returning to Canberra to restart his halves mission.
“I know the opportunity to wear the green jumper isn’t always going to be there,” Williams said.
“Training every day with Aidan and Blake, we’ve got a healthy competition. Those boys have worked on their combination for the past two years and are great players.
“But I enjoy that challenge and testing myself at training. We try to help each other as much as possible and push each other. That probably lifts the enjoyment factor.
“I’m hoping being back here and push me that little bit further.”
The Raiders are also working on contract extensions for rookie of the year Nick Cotric and hooker Josh Hodgson, who was named in the England World Cup side on Monday night.
Hodgson and Elliott Whitehead will play for England as part of Canberra’s international contingent at the World Cup.