The early departure of homesick halfback George Williams is a massive blow for the struggling Canberra Raiders.
The Englishman, who proved one of the signings of 2020 when he helped steer an injury-depleted Canberra to the preliminary final, had his contract terminated immediately by the club on Tuesday.
The Raiders said the relationship between club and player had become untenable after the halfback started agitating for a release at the end of the year.
Williams cited homesickness and his pregnant partner as the reasons for wanting to return to England, but claims the club kicked him out rather than it being a mutual decision to leave.
Either way it leaves a big hole in Ricky Stuart's team, which has won just four games in 11 rounds to sit 11th on the ladder.
Williams has played 32 games for the Raiders, scoring 10 tries and kicking 16 goals and two field goals. He's also forced seven line drop-outs in 2021.
With injured skipper Jarrod Croker out indefinitely this season, Williams had taken over the kicking tee and enjoyed an 88.9% goal-kicking accuracy record.
He also polled the second-most votes for a Raiders player in the 2020 Dally M Medal behind winner Jack Wighton, including two three-vote games for player of the match.
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Veteran Sam Williams has been drafted in to play halfback for the foreseeable future, fresh from his first NRL match of the season last weekend.
He'll be joined in the halves against the Roosters on Saturday by Wighton, who has served a one-match suspension in a major boost for the Raiders.
Englishman Josh Hodgson is also back on the bench after a one-match ban, while New Zealand international Jordan Rapana returns on the wing from a hamstring injury.
Coach Ricky Stuart has wielded the selection axe in the wake of Saturday's loss to Melbourne, dropping Hudson Young to reserve grade after a string of sub-par performances.
Ryan Sutton will start at lock, while veteran Sia Soliola has been named on the bench for his first NRL match since the round-eight loss to South Sydney.
Sydney Roosters v Canberra Raiders
Saturday, 7.35pm Central Coast Stadium
1. Caleb Aekins 2. Bailey Simonsson 3. Sebastian Kris 4. Curtis Scott 5. Jordan Rapana 6. Jack Wighton 7. Sam Williams 8. Dunamis Lui 9. Tom Starling 10. Emre Guler 11. Corey Harawira-Naera 12. Elliott Whitehead 13. Ryan Sutton 14. Josh Hodgson 15. Iosia Soliola 16. Corey Horsburgh 17. Ryan James 18. Elijah Anderson 19. Harry Rushton 20. Brad Schneider 21. Hudson Young