19th August 2020, 16:30 | nrl
Canberra five-eighth Jack Wighton has revealed that English halfback George Williams has been given more control of the Raiders attack as they aim to cement a top four spot in coming weeks.
Boosted by the recent return of England second-rower John Bateman, Canberra overpowered Brisbane last weekend to join Sydney Roosters in equal fourth position and a clash between last year’s grand finalists in two weeks could decide which team get a second chance in the finals.
The Raiders travel to the Gold Coast to take on the Titans on Saturday and Wighton said Williams had now assumed a greater responsibility for the team’s attack.
“Me and Georgy changed our roles a little bit, he has taken more control of the ruck now and it worked for us,” Wighton said.
“We are starting to click a little bit more. I still control the left side of the field but he is just a little bit more hands on and has a little bit more freedom to swing both ways basically.”
Bateman is also enjoying playing alongside Williams again after being team-mates for four seasons at Wigan and the duo combined for two tries last weekend in just their third match together for the Green Machine.
“He is a good player George. I played with him for quite a few years now. I played with him at Wigan and in the England side so we know each other quite well,” Bateman said.
“He is a bit like me, he likes playing off the cuff so it is good to play alongside him and get that combination going.”
After losing England hooker Josh Hodgson with a season-ending knee injury, many believed Canberra’s premiership hopes were dashed but Tonga international Saliva Havili and rookie Tom Starling have filled the void.
“Josh is a world class hooker and one of the best hookers in the game. Everything we goes through him and everyone was a bit down to lose him a few weeks back but I think Saliva and Tom have done very well,” said Bateman, who is returning to Wigan next season.
“We spoke about how we had a bit of a blip last year and we came through the other side so that’s what we are looking to do this year. We want to kick on now.
“There are not many weeks left in the season so we want to get on a good roll and go into the finals playing some good rugby. “I am looking forward to getting home but I want to finish the season on a high.”
With six rounds remaining the battle for finals spots is heating up and Parramatta will be looking to keep their hopes of winning the minor premiership alive by beating the second-placed Melbourne Storm on Thursday night.
If the Storm win, they will move four points clear of the third-placed Eels and could leapfrog NRL competition leaders Penrith if the Panthers succumb to the seventh-placed Cronulla Sharks on Friday night.
Sydney Roosters, who play Wests Tigers on Saturday night, and Canberra are four points behind Parramatta and one point ahead of sixth-placed Newcastle.
The Sharks and South Sydney, featuring England Test prop Tom Burgess, are a further point behind the Knights, and four points clear of the Tigers and Manly.
To maintain their finals hopes, the Sea Eagles need to overcome Souths on Saturday night, while the Tigers will be looking to upset the Roosters and Newcastle is chasing a win over North Queensland on Sunday.
St George Illawarra travel to Brisbane on Friday night for their first game under interim coach Dean Young, with both teams out of finals reckoning, while the New Zealand Warriors and Canterbury Bulldogs meet on Sunday in another game with no bearing on the top eight.