Makeshift Canterbury halfback Tony Williams says lessons learned from NSW playmaker and teammate Trent Hodkinson helped him steer the Bulldogs to an upset win over Manly.
Williams was the most unlikely of halfbacks when the Dogs took to ANZ Stadium for their round 17 NRL clash against the Sea Eagles, with both Hodkinson and Josh Reynolds missing due to State of Origin commitments.
But `T-Rex’ Williams was instrumental in Canterbury’s 23-16 win on Friday, piloting the Dogs about and kicking strongly and passing deftly in his first outing in the halves since the back-rower inspired Sunshine Coast to a Queensland Cup premiership victory in 2009.
“We won the grand final that year, it was surprising to get the call up early in the week, but I knew what I had to do there,” Williams said.
“I have played there a bit against Parramatta, but to train there is a bit surreal.
“Training to play half especially under Des isn’t easy.
“I was nervous because I haven’t had to train to play there before, but I knew what I had to do.
“I know what they (Hodkinson and Reynolds) do for our team and I knew I had to step up.
“Playing alongside Trent I knew what I was doing anyway and I learnt from him.”
The win was just Canterbury’s second during the Origin period, having lost both of their previous games without Hodkinson and Reynolds on NSW duty.
Parramatta surprised the Bulldogs the last time they were without the NSW duo by playing Chris Sandow at fullback and Bulldogs coach Des Hasler plotted a surprise of his own this time around.
“We just played around with it a little bit,” Hasler said.
“If anything we went in with the idea (fill-in five-eighth) Josh (Jackson) and Tony are used to defending on the edges and that’s where they are pretty strong Manly.”
The win lifted the Dogs alongside Manly atop the NRL ladder.
Penrith can join them with a win over Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.