'Wigan Warriors needed a star to replace George Williams. In Jackson Hastings, they have one' - comment

George Williams' move to Canberra has been an open secret
George Williams' move to Canberra has been an open secret

Rugby league is often full of surprises; the player movement at Wigan this week hasn't one of them.

Like the John Bateman saga a year ago, the 'George Williams to Canberra' line has dragged on way too long without any official comment or confirmation, becoming the worst-kept secret in rugby league.

Williams is 24. He is no longer a young man, and yet many feel - and Adrian Lam is one of them - there is still more to come from the academy-product. And his place on the Steve Prescott Man of Steel table suggests as much; there are five halfbacks above him, even though he is regarded by Wayne Bennett as being as good as anyone on his day.

Those bright days have become more and more frequent in recent weeks, and Wigan fans have started to see his range of skills - from short-kicks to a devastating running game, as well as a solid defence - torment opposition sides.

After the 52-10 demolition of Hull KR, coach Tony Smith enthused: "George Williams had a field day, I love watching him - I didn't enjoy watching him tonight."

It's easy to see why Ricky Stuart, a champion half in his day, would be excited about working with him. The same way Lam was when he joined Wigan.

Williams will be aware he will be entering a hostile environment next year.

Many English players thrive in the NRL but they are usually forwards - from Bateman to Ryan Sutton, the Burgess boys to James Graham, Adrian Morley to Elliot Whitehead, and on. And on.

Backs have had a rougher ride, generally, with Joe Burgess and Sam Tomkins failing to scale the heights of their Super League form, while it's been a long time since a halfback has tested himself in the NRL (Chris Thorman, anyone?).

I admire Williams for having a crack. For what it's worth, I think he'll do well.

And I think the decision to let him go now represents a smart piece of business by Wigan.

Willams could have left for free next year, so the Warriors have wisely decided to cash in and secure a six-figure transfer for him - while also securing a quality replacement in Jackson Hastings.

And in doing so, Lam has finally got his man.

When he was preparing to join Wigan for this season he asked the club to chase Hastings' signature.

The Aussie halfback stayed loyal to Salford, given they had thrown him a career lifeline following his acrimonious split from Manly.

Lam has made no secret of his admiration for the 23-year-old, a personal friend who he knew well from the Roosters junior ranks.

He's crafty, he creates, he kicks... and he is thorny, niggling opponents as he competes for everything.

Off the field, too, Hastings is a great ambassador for the sport which I'm sure will endear him to the Wigan fans.

And while Wigan have had some success with project players and academy graduates – and will continue to do so – I felt they needed a star signing to replace Williams.

In Hastings, they have a star on their hands.