Roosters head of performance Travis Touma has been entrusted with setting up the gym and the training regime that Williams will put himself through over the next fortnight after the veteran back-rower cancelled a European family holiday to make his NRL comeback.
Williams hasn’t trained in two months or played in close to five months but will train with the Roosters once he’s released from mandatory quarantine on August 13, with the club hopeful of using the 35-year-old for their round 17 grand final rematch against the Canberra Raiders on September 5.
Williams told Nine News’ Danny Weidler that the fear of living with the regret of passing up on the opportunity for one last NRL fling was too strong to ignore.
“I want to be known as a sportsman that gave it a crack,” Williams told Nine News.
“Going back to the back-to-back championship team like the Roosters are, for me the challenge is trying to make that side. I know a lot of people and a lot of outside talk will be about competitions and trying to win this and trying to win that … for me it’s just trying to make that squad.
“I think if I sat back and tried to play it safe all the time, there would be nothing to talk about or have any career highlights. I was just laying there at night thinking, ‘damn, I’m 35, can I still do it?’. ‘Can I still play amongst some of the best players in the world again?’.
“I thought I had a couple of months in me to go hard again and see how it all unfolds. I don’t want to be retired and have that ‘well, you should’ve given it a crack’. How can I tell my kids to strive to be what they want to be when old mate was just sitting there and resting on his laurels when this opportunity came up.”
Williams revealed that Roosters coach Trent Robinson reached out to Williams when the COVID-19 pandemic brought the Super League season to a halt, but never envisaged that things would transpire the way they have with Toronto withdrawing from the competition.
“As time went on, I didn’t think there was a chance of me coming back at all,” Williams told Nine News.
“My mindset was getting ready for Super League. Then we couldn’t get our VISA’s and then we were pulling out of the competition. It was just a rollercoaster of emotions. Then Nick Politis hit me up and asked if I had a couple of months in me. To be honest, I hadn’t trained in a bit. I’d been on holiday mode. We’d actually booked flights, my wife booked a family European holiday.
“When Nick hit me up and when Trent hit me up, it took me 24-48 hours to think about it and thought, it’s just the challenge. It’s the challenge I get so excited about. It’s that fire inside of you. For me, you’re a long time retired. I’m not going into a Roosters team that came 12th or 13th the year before. They’re back-to-back world champions, I’m 35 and I haven’t been training. It’s against me in that sense, but for me that’s the challenge. That’s the reason why I said yes.”
As for his quarantine goals? “Getting through quarantine still married and a happy family,” Williams joked.
Michael Chammas is a sports reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald