The Rugby League family is well and truly flourishing in the NSW Under 17s Invitational side to play the touring Warrington Wolves tomorrow (4 November) at Blacktown’s HE Laybutt Sporting Complex is any guide.
Among the 18 players selected are Toby Rodwell and Zach Fittler - sons of True Blues Brett Rodwell and Brad Fittler.
Rodwell scored 70 tries in 202 games for the Illawarra Steelers and Rabbitohs from 1989-1999, while Fittler enjoyed two premierships in his 336 games for Penrith and the Sydney Roosters, along with captaining and then coaching the NSW Origin team.
Then there’s Nikora Williams whose father played 13 Tests for New Zealand alongside scoring 63 tries in 145 first grade games for Western Suburbs Eastern Suburbs, South Sydney, Canterbury-Bankstown and Penrith from 1987-1998.
James Croker, younger brother of Manly Warringah hooker Lachlan Croker and nephew of True Blue Jason Croker, is also in the squad.
Williams is forging his own path in Rugby League. He helped the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks to the finals of the UNE Harold Matthews Cup this year.
He was then selected in the centres for an Australian Schoolboys side that played the Junior Kumuls in Port Moresby last month.
“I’m grateful to everyone who has been part of my season this year,” Williams told nswrl.com.au
“I was lucky enough to get into the Schoolboys (side) over there in Papua New Guinea. It showed me how lucky I am to have such good things around me.”
As for advice from his international winger father, Williams is selective.
“I give it to him most of the time because he always talks about my tackling but he never did any tackling out there on the wing,” he said.
“Look, seriously, he’s taught me a lot of things … Dad keeps me humble and tells me what I have to do better rather than showering me with too many compliments.
“That’s a good thing to have – to have that balance.”
Rodwell’s father played one Origin – Game Two 1995 – along with three matches for NSW Country.
“He didn’t have too long in the (NSW) jersey but it’s still pretty special to him and to the family,” Rodwell said.
Rodwell won Player of the Match in the 2022 Under 16s Country-City game and is captain of the Sydney Roosters Harold Matthews side, which finished a disappointing 11th in 2023.
“It was definitely not what we wanted or expected this year. But it was still a fun season with a good bunch of boys,” Rodwell said.
“It’s good to end the season with another team of good mates.”
Both Williams and Rodwell are appreciating the input from NSW Under 17s Invitational coach Geoff Toovey and fellow True Blues Nathan Hindmarsh, Steve Menzies and Boyd Cordner in camp.
“It’s awesome. I know Boyd pretty well through the Roosters ... he really knows his stuff and there’s still so much I can learn off him,” Rodwell said.
Williams added: “Geoff has played in grand finals, in State of Origins, in Test matches. He’s a big-time player.
“He’s been teaching us to be brave and be tough no matter what.
“Then someone like Boyd Cordner talks, you’re also going to listen. He’s captained his state, his country.”