Western Bulldogs FC
Born: 17 July 1986
Senior Club: Morningside
Schools: St.Josephs College (Gregory Terrace)
Queensland Selection: U18 (2004)
Draft Details: Selection #6 (1st round) 2004 National Draft
AFL Debut: Western Bulldogs v Richmond, MCG, Rd 4, 2007, (20 April)
Jumper Number: 12
AT A GLANCE: To the end of 2010 Tom Williams stood behind only one Queenslander on the all-time AFL Draft Honour Roll – St.Kilda superstar and No.1 draft pick Nick Riewoldt. Yet, sadly, he’s been denied a chance to deliver on the potential that saw him taken by the Western Bulldogs at No.6 overall in the 2004 AFL National Draft. In his first six years in the AFL he was limited to 33 senior games but an astonishing injury toll, mainly foot problems. Yet the very fact that he even made it to the AFL, and is still considered a key figure in the make-up of the best side at Whitten Oval, is testament to his athletic potential and his outstanding work ethic.
Son of former Queensland rugby league representative and founding board member of the Brisbane Broncos, he was an early product of the AFLQ Rookie Search program. Playing rugby union at Gregory Terrace without getting a lot of satisfaction, he was lured to AFL by close friend Jayden Russ, son of ex-South Melbourne AFL player and Morningside stalwart Steve Russ. In 2004, in his first season in the game, he was a member of the Queensland U18 side and Morningside’s QAFL State League premiership team. It wasn’t about performance – it was about potential.
He’d played less than 20 games of football in his life but Scott Clayton, recruiting guru who had put together the Brisbane Lions’ triple premiership side of 2001-02-03 and would later take charge of building the foundation list of the Gold Coast, had seen enough to know of his rare potential. Only Brett Deledio, Jarryd Roughead, Ryan Griffen, Richard Tambling and Lance Franklin were taken before Clayton swooped on Williams at No.6. He was described in the 2005 AFL Guide as “one of the great stories’. He spent his first season in the AFL system playing with Werribee reserves, and such was the regard in which he was held by senior coach Rodney Eade that he described the young Queenslander’s season-ending ankle injury as one of the most disappointing aspects of the year.
Williams had further problems with a fractured navicular in his foot in ’06, and it wasn’t until Round 4 2007 that he made his senior debut alongside fellow Queenslander Jarrod Harbrow against Richmond at the MCG. In his first involvement Williams handled twice in the defensive 50m zone before running down centre wing and delivering the ball on a platter to set up a goal for Luke Darcy. It was like Clayton was saying ‘this is what I’ve been talking about”. The 196cm super-athlete played 13 senior games in’07 but was restricted by injury to six games in’08 and 14 games in ’09, when he missed the finals as the Dogs went within a whisker of qualifying for the grand final. While Barry Hall loomed as the major signing heading into a 2010 premiership buoyed by a runaway win in the NAB Cup grand final, there are many insiders who think Williams at centre half back could be just as important if he can play a full season.