Elusive winger Jason Williams played 13 Tests for the Kiwis during the 1990s and played 145 first-grade games five Sydney-based premiership clubs – including a Grand Final triumph during a four-season stay with Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
Christchurch-born, Williams headed to Sydney at the age of 15 and made his top-grade debut for Western Suburbs Magpies as a 19-year-old in 1987, before spending the following season with Eastern Suburbs Roosters.
He returned home in 1989 and played for Sydenham, making his debut for the Canterbury provincial side against Wellington. But after spending the next year with Sydney Metropolitan Cup side Guildford, the livewire received his big break during a 1991 season with South Sydney that garnered 12 tries in 16 games – and a New Zealand Test debut in the famous 24-8 thrashing of Australia in Melbourne. He held his spot for the 44-0 loss in the second Test and came off the bench in the 40-12 decider defeat.
The wiry Williams linked with the Bulldogs in 1992, earning a Kiwis recall for the following year’s tour of Britain and France after cementing a first-grade spot for the emerging heavyweight club. He played in all five Tests on tour – used as an interchange against Wales and for the first two clashes with Great Britain before earning a promotion to the starting side for the third Test and scoring a try, then lining up on the flank again versus France – and scored four tries in seven other tour matches.
Williams’ sole Test try – in the dead-rubber at Headingley against Great Britain – was a sizzling 50-metre solo effort (see video below).
In 1994, Williams, simultaneously with Canberra front-rower Quentin Pongia, became just the third ex-Canterbury (NZ) player to appear in a NSWRL Grand Final after Bill Noonan (Canterbury-Bankstown, 1974) and Brent Todd (Canberra, 1987 and 1989-91), while he became the first to score a try in one.
The shell-shocked Bulldogs fell 14-0 behind against the Raiders in the ’94 decider, but Williams provided his side with some desperately-needed respite before halftime. The Kiwi flyer reeled in a Laurie Daley cut-out pass and outpaced Brett Mullins and Jason Croker on an 80-metre sprint to the try-line. Williams’ try – his 11th of the season – against the run of play was not a turning point, however, with the Raiders going on with the job to carve out a 36-12 victory.
Two weeks earlier he had produced a 60-metre sideline run in extra-time to help the Bulldogs to a 19-18 victory over the Raiders in the major semi.
Williams came off the bench in both Tests on the end-of-year tour of Papua New Guinea in 1994 and featured on the wing in one Test in each of the Kiwis’ mid-1995 series against France and Australia, sandwiching an off-season stint at Salford in between.
Ousting Origin star Brett Dallas for a Grand Final wing spot after two months out of the first-grade line-up, Williams clinched a premiership medal in the Bulldogs’ 17-4 boilover against Manly in the ’95 decider. He was part of New Zealand’s Centenary World Cup squad but featured only in the pool win over Papua New Guinea – his last appearance in the black-and-white jersey.
The 73-game Bulldog finished a colourful career with three seasons and 41 top-grade games at Penrith (1996-98). Williams’ 63 first-grade tries in the Australian premiership are a record for Canterbury product.
NEW ZEALAND (1991, 1993-95)
13 Tests – 1 try (4 points)
10 tour matches – 5 tries (20 points)
-1993 Kiwis tour of Great Britain and France
-1994 Kiwis tour of Papua New Guinea
-1995 Kiwis World Cup squad