George Williams column: England & Canberra half-back on NRL pre-season & Ryan Sutton's accent

George Williams

With the Rugby League World Cup taking place in England this autumn, and Australia's National Rugby League featuring some of the cream of English talent, England and Canberra half-back George Williams will be updating BBC Sport on life and rugby 'down under' throughout the 2021 season.

The National Rugby League season is just a few weeks away and I'm starting to feel the buzz, the excitement. We had a media day this week, and that made the start of it all feel more real.

Being interviewed by the media down here is always interesting, with my Wigan accent. Some people look at me and don't know what I'm talking about, but I've just learned to talk a bit slower and they understand me.

We've got a few English lads at Canberra, so they're getting used to us slowly. Me, Elliott Whitehead and Ryan Sutton, and Josh Hodgson too.

Mind you, my old mate Ryan has gone to a new level with his new accent. I've known Sutty since we first played together as 11 or 12-year-old kids.

So I know him like the back of my hand; we used to live five minutes' walk from each other and grew up together.

Ryan Sutton
Ryan Sutton's new 'Aussie' accent has made him a target for Williams' wind-ups at Canberra

He's got an Australian girlfriend now, and he's totally changed. I wish our mates back home could hear his accent because he'd get slaughtered. He thinks I'm just winding him up but honestly, he's actually got an Aussie accent.

It's only subtle things, little Aussie twangs he's picking up - so instead of afternoon, he'll say 'arvo' for example - but every time he does it I get onto him.

Elliott has been here six years, but you can still tell he's from Bradford.

'The worst is the 10 x 800m runs'

It's our goal to get back to the Grand Final and win it this time in 2021, having got there in 2019. Last year we fell a bit short, but we are still there or thereabouts.

Canberra have been a good team for two years now but it's time we made the most of the squad we've got.

We lost a few players this year, but we've recruited well as well. We believe our time is now.

Every pre-season I've ever done has always been hard, but I found it a little bit more difficult over here because of the heat. I'm not used to it.

I'm used to running around in 5C or 10C, and here it's 35C, so you do feel a difference. But Canberra gets pretty cold as well, which is good so you do feel like you're back at home.

The worst session is the 10 x 800m runs. Ten of them! But you've got skills in between so you'll be doing skills into an 800; skills, 800 and so on.

It's more mentally hard than anything, though you do have to do them within a certain time. There's a lot of head noise going around when you're running round that field, a few demons.

But it doesn't matter how hard it is, you manage to get through somehow.

Christmas comforts from 'Sticky'

Obviously at Christmas we couldn't go home so our head coach Ricky Stuart had the English lads - me, Elliott Whitehead and Ryan Sutton - round for Christmas dinner.

He's very family oriented, and they're always asking about family and whether everyone back home is fit and well.

It's easy to say it but it's probably the best group I've been involved with; it's really good.

Canberra Raiders players have a laugh with Ricky Stuart
Canberra coach Ricky 'Sticky' Stuart can be 'really serious' but 'loves a laugh' too

Me and the missus have relied so much on Facetime to keep in touch with family, it's been a blessing. She really misses home pretty badly too. It sounds like there is some good news coming though back home around Covid.

'Sticky', as our boss Ricky is known in Aus, has a good balance. He can be really serious, and when he wants something, he'll tell you. But then he's got the joking side about him and loves a laugh.

It's good to have that as a coach. You can't always be serious, you need to build that friendship with your players and he's got that really good.

Exploring Australia

Me and my girlfriend couldn't come home in the off-season so we made the most of being here by travelling up the whole coast of Queensland for four and a bit weeks - it was unbelievable.

There are no beaches in Canberra so it was nice to get the full Australian lifestyle experience, and relax away from rugby a little bit.

My old man lives in Perth, so I went over to see him for five days, so basically five out of the eight weeks I was just dotting around the country just to relax.

We also got stuck in quarantine in Melbourne, which was frustrating, but we got let out in the end. I agree with quarantine though. It's probably why Australia has coped so well with Covid.

Jurgen Klopp speaks to his Liverpool players
Liverpool have lost four consecutive home league games for only the second time, last doing so back in December 1923 - when they were also defending top-flight champions

I'm a big Liverpool fan and I don't know what's gone wrong with them. I'm filthy about it.

They've been that good for that long, but it's hard to be good for two or three years consistently.

They've had a bad run of form, and don't I know about it? All my Man United mates are onto me so much. I've got John Bateman, Ryan Sutton, Oli Gildart, Joe Burgess all giving it to me.

But I go mad. I hadn't heard from them for years because they 'weren't interested in football any more'. Now they're all on about Bruno Fernandes. I'm sick of it.

George Williams was speaking to BBC Sport's Matt Newsum

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