Manly Warringah Sea Eagles coach Trent Barrett has drawn confidence from the success of his former ball boy at Wigan as he prepares to start the Telstra Premiership without an established halves partner for Daly Cherry-Evans.
George Williams was the ball boy when Barrett wore the Wigan No.6 jersey in 2007 and 2008, and he has developed into one of Wigan’s key players after coach Shaun Wane was forced to elevate him into his starting line-up as a teenager.
By coincidence, Blake Green – the five-eighth Barrett is likely to replace with rookie Lachlan Croker – was the player whose role Williams took over in 2014 after he suffered a ruptured biceps muscle.
Williams has since gone on to play 119 matches for Wigan, including three grand finals and last year’s Challenge Cup final against Hull FC, who Wigan will meet at WIN Stadium on Saturday night in the first Super League match played outside Europe.
The 23-year-old was also a member of the England squad for the recent World Cup.
“George has done really well. I was talking to Shaun about the situation I am in, having to pick a young half to go with Cherry,” Barrett told NRL.com. “It is the same as what Waney had to do and he has come out on top.
“At some stage, they all have to start and George has done really well. It was 10 years ago since I was there and he was a junior then. He is a very good player, a typical little English halfback.”
Williams is open to the possibility of a move to the NRL but rejected approaches to re-sign with Wigan last year.
“It was a big decision but I am a local lad and I just want to focus on playing well for Wigan,” Williams told NRL.com.
“I am still young and maybe I can learn my trade a little bit more and progress if I do get the chance to play in the NRL.”
If he was to come to the NRL it is likely that Williams would consider playing wherever Barrett was coaching as the former NSW and Australian playmaker was his idol growing up in Wigan.
“Trent Barret was my hero, he was who I looked up to,” Williams said. “I was just a young kid at Wigan, I was a ball boy at the time and I loved watching him play.
“It is crazy now that he wore the same number as me, which I don’t take for granted. It is pretty special.”