George Williams has enlisted the players’ union to help manage his ugly exit from Canberra with the half still yet to agree to the terms of his immediate departure.
Meanwhile, the Englishman is set to be in considerable demand back in his home Super League, with Wigan coach Adrian Lam confirming on Wednesday that the club is in talks to re-sign him.
The Raiders made the snap call to release Williams from the final 18 months of his deal on Tuesday, after he had battled with homesickness.
But the move did not come at the specific request of Williams, who had been angling to leave the club at the end of the season.
After recently being denied a third request for an early release, Williams did not show at training on Tuesday after contacting the club’s welfare officer.
He also made himself unavailable to play against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday, prompting Canberra’s call to release him immediately.
Williams took to social media on Tuesday night to claim that “instead of supporting (him) the club kicked (him) out the door”.
The post was “liked” by several Canberra teammates, including Jack Wighton, Josh Papalii, Sia Soliola, Hudson Young and Joe Tapine.
Williams has since accepted the support of the Rugby League Players Association, along with the help of his manager in England.
The 26-year-old’s situation is a tricky one.
He signed with Canberra well before the start of COVID-19, but due to the pandemic has been unable to return home since late 2019.
His partner Charlotte is pregnant and the couple want to be in England and around family when the baby is born.
The Raiders have long been adamant they could support him and help resolve the situation.
There had been offers to let him spend the summer in England and complete some of his pre-season there before returning to Australia in January or February next year.
The club also paid a hefty six-figure transfer fee to Wigan to prize him away from the English Super League club at the end of 2019 on the three-year deal.
“There’s talk that he’s going to go immediately. Obviously with a player of George’s calibre, you want him at Wigan,” Lam said.
“The club is in contact with his manager, they have touched base with him, but there’s plenty of water that needs to pass under the bridge.”
Warrington and Leeds are also thought to be keen on the player but Lam is confident his club are in pole position, having gained first refusal on his services as part of the deal agreed when in allowing him to move to Australia.
Lam also believes the lure of returning to his home town club, which players like Sam Tomkins, Lee Mossop and Joe Burgess have done in the past, also counts in Wigan’s favour.
“He’s a Wigan junior, he’s had a lot of success here and all his friends are here,” Lam added.
The drama comes after fellow Englishman John Bateman also left the club early last year to return to England after testing his value on the open market.
Williams’s exit will eventually present a problem for Canberra in the halves.
Sam Williams will step up in the immediate aftermath, while Shaun Johnson is the only proven marquee option available for next year.
But Anthony Milford appears unwanted at Brisbane and could potentially return to his junior club, while former Raider Blake Austin if off-contract at Warrington.
Corey Norman and Ash Taylor are other off-contract options.