Raiders defend stance on released Williams

·3-min read

Ricky Stuart insists Josh Hodgson's public defence of George Williams won't be an issue as the fallout from the half's ugly Canberra exit teeters towards a legal battle.

The struggling Raiders' clash with the Sydney Roosters on Saturday shapes as the most important of their season, but all the external focus remains off the field.

Williams is yet to sign his release papers from the NRL club and enlisted the help of the players' union, claiming he was kicked out the door immediately after only wanting to return to England at the end of the season.

A social media post where Williams was critical of the club was liked by at least eight Raiders, including captain Jarrod Croker, former skipper Hodgson as well as Jack Wighton and Josh Papalii.

Hodgson then went public in his defence of Williams, frustrated over the way his English teammate had been perceived and wanting answers.

Stuart was due to meet with Hodgson on Friday to clear the air on the matter, but insisted the playing group had not shown any signs of falling apart.

"Josh came out and supported a friend yesterday. I get that," Stuart said on Friday.

"We'll have a quick chat before training and we'll get on with it.

"I have a good relationship with Josh and a good one with George Williams. But we have a business and football department to run."

Future discussions with Hodgson are at some point likely to involve his own future, after the hooker made clear in the News Corp interview he did not want to be a bench player.

Hodgson is named on the interchange again this week behind No.9 Tom Starling, but Stuart does see him playing at lock and potentially in the halves as well as hooker.

Meanwhile Raiders boss Don Furner on Friday doubled down on his defence of the decision to release Williams immediately.

The homesick Williams had three times asked for a release at the end of the season for he and his pregnant partner to return to England next year.

He then withdrew from training and this week's game after being denied the release again on Monday night, citing welfare issues.

But Furner insisted his club's welfare department couldn't be brought into question, claiming it was greater than any other business in Canberra.

"We have unbelievable welfare officers who have offered him counselling," Furner said.

"We offered him to go home at the end of the year on full pay for three months.

"I'm sure he is homesick. But we have 120 people in this organisation facing a lot more difficulties than homesickness and they turn up to work."

Furner also confirmed the six-figure transfer fee the club had paid Wigan to get the half to Australia was with solicitors, while talks with Williams would continue into next month over any exit payment.

"He hasn't signed (the release). There will be a legal stand-off for a while," Furner said.

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