Former Raiders players Joel Thompson, Shaun Berrigan and Sam Williams in 2013. Williams is likely to return but Thompson will stay at the Dragons. Photo: Melissa Adams
Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has all but confirmed halfback Sam Williams will return to the club next season, but Joel Thompson will not be following suit.
Outgoing Raiders assistant Brett Kimmorley believes Williams and fellow youngster Mitch Cornish have an opportunity to cement themselves as Canberra's first-choice halves for a "long, long while".
Stuart virtually confirmed Fairfax Media reports Williams is set to be welcomed back on ABC Radio on Saturday, despite him being granted a release to join the Dragons this season.
"We have been talking to Sam's manager and I'm not sure if it's all signed and done, but you could nearly bet your bottom dollar Sam will be with us next year," Stuart said. "If that does work out, it creates more depth in our halves, which is a good thing."
The return of Williams, 23, places more pressure on skipper and five-eighth Terry Campese, who played his second straight game for NSW Cup side Mounties on Saturday.
Stuart also said talks to bring former back-rower Thompson back to the club after his move to St George lllawarra this year have broken down.
The Raiders were confident Thompson would return as early as two weeks ago, but it is understood he is happier and more settled under new Dragons coach Paul McGregor.
"No, he won't be with the club," Stuart said. "We were communicating with Joel, but there's been a breakdown there and that won't happen."
Kimmorley, who publicly implored Canberra to retain Williams after his breakout 2012 finals series, says he will be determined to pounce on his "last chance".
Ironically, Williams was released partly due to the big raps on Cornish, but Kimmorley says they could coexist in the same team.
"Mitch Cornish got his chance to start [against Wests on Saturday], and with Tony [Milford] leaving there's an opportunity for a couple of young kids to put their hands up and be the halves for a long, long while," Kimmorley said.
"[Williams will] be hungry when he returns, getting an opportunity for a second time, and he'll be willing to train and work harder, [because] this is his last chance.
"They [Williams and Cornish] aren't as exciting as Tony and don't have that leg speed and athletic ability to blow you away, but they're both good enough to build on game plans and execute plays.
"When Sammy plays nice and straight he's a good player. He won't win you a game like Milford can, but he can get you into one and see if you're good enough to win it.
"A second chance will make him a bit more motivated and excited. At the end of the day, he has to take it."
Kimmorley said Campese's attitude had been first-class since his dumping to Mounties.
"His attitude's been great, he's been very good at training and leading them around, he's willing to listen," he said.