NRL season 2020: Tony Williams involves incredible 27kg weight loss
Tony Williams is desperate to repay Manly coach Des Hasler, as the former representative star insists he still has the ability to return his best after dropping 27kg in three months last summer.
Williams spent months fearing his NRL career was over in late 2018, after back-to-back ACL tears and a 12-week suspension for illicit drug use. Axed by Parramatta and out of a job at age 30, the player known as T-Rex blew out to a whopping 143kg after at one stage being a NSW State of Origin star.
“It’s been very, very bad,” Williams told AAP. “Not just on me and my family as well. I have seen a lot in that time and I have battled a few battles in that time.
“And here I am now. I am still learning. I am not done yet. I am still learning and striving to be better.
“I play it day by day and get better every day I guess.”
It was at that point Williams called Hasler — who had just rejoined Manly — asking for help.
The pair had worked together at Manly and Canterbury, as Williams went from a big winger to a tackle-busting machine in the second row who played five Tests for Australia.
“He just said, ‘Sign with (feeder club) Blacktown, play there. And we’ll sort the rest out’,” Williams said.
“Nothing was guaranteed. He never said I would get back here. It was almost as if he was saying you’ve still got it and still got the hunger.
“And that’s what I did and he gave me the opportunity.
“I am forever grateful to Des. I just hope I can return the favour and get him a few wins and a grand final.”
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He met regularly with close friend and fellow troubled star Jarryd Hayne as they trained together either side of the call to Hasler.
“He would have gained about 8kg too,” Williams said. “We weren’t mentally well then and then your body follows but I knew I just had so much to give.
“I didn’t want to go five or 10 years’ time and think, ‘Back then, why didn’t I change? Why didn’t I drop everything just to get on the park?’”
The sessions became daily, as Williams lost the 27kg in the months before fronting up at Blacktown training.
“I had to sacrifice a lot,” Williams said.
“It was just about trying to get myself back. That’s what it was. I lost it in about 10 or 12 weeks. I’ve never worked so hard.”
Williams never got his first-grade shot in 2019, sitting outside Manly’s top 30 after being able to return to football in June.
But he impressed Hasler enough to be named on the extended bench for last year’s finals, and was recalled into their top squad for 2020.
“He came to some of the (Blacktown) games and saw how good I played,” Williams said. “He was pretty impressed.
“I did everything on my own. I put my head down and just wanted to get back in grade and that’s what happened.”
If he does play, it will mark just his seventh NRL game in three-and-a-half years and his first since April 29, 2018.
But regardless, the 31-year-old has taken enough confidence from his own efforts to fight back from NRL extinction to know he can return to being one of the game’s most damaging beasts.
“I thought I could be one of the best in the game (when I got to Parramatta in 2018). I still have that same belief,” Williams said.
“Mentally I am a lot better and that’s 90 per cent of the game. “There’s no reason why I can’t be there again.”
Originally published as NRL star’s incredible 27kg weight loss