Bulldogs back-rower Tony Williams says his recent form slump and demotion to reserve grade were the lowest point of his career – but after a two-game resurgence is looking to repay coach Des Hasler with further improvement.
Speaking after a powerful effort in a big win against Brisbane on Saturday night in which he scored a try and ran 124 metres with six tackle busts, Williams said he regretted forcing Hasler to leave him out of first grade.
Williams told NRL.com he credited the support of his family and rekindling his relationship with the church for his upturn in form. While critics would point out Williams is in a contract year, the destructive ex-Kangaroo said contracts weren't even on his mind as he looks to prove he belongs in first grade.
"It's been good [the past two weeks], I guess the time off kind of helped me," Williams said.
"It was a career low [being dropped] but I knew I had to make a difference or change something so that helped me and I guess my family helped me a lot and going back to church was a good thing."
Williams said he has struggled consistently with his confidence since injuries ruined his 2015 campaign, which ended after 11 rounds due to a torn pectoral muscle.
"That big injury last year kind of didn't help. I guess the confidence wasn't there but I couldn't say the effort wasn't there, it was just the confidence in having to play good footy every week wasn't there," he said.
Williams feels Hasler is relieved to see him back and contributing in first grade.
"Dessie knows what I'm capable of. I've been under him for seven or eight years and he knows what I'm capable of. I think he's relieved, he's happy for me," Williams said.
"I think he was hurt that he had to drop me. I know he's a very loyal man and I think it was just, I got myself into that situation and I'm getting myself out of it."
Williams now wants to repay Hasler, as well as his family for all their support – as well prove to himself he still has what it takes.
"The last couple of years haven't been the best with injuries and stuff but I want to do it for myself and see where it takes us," he added.
For Williams, it is not about replicating what he has done over his past two dominant performances but improving further.
"I want to get better every week, you can always improve. The last couple of weeks is gone now and I'm looking forward to the next one against Roosters [on Thursday]," he said.
"I've got to improve everywhere to be honest. Defence, I've been working hard on that and that's played a big part to date and hopefully I'll keep improving on my 'D'."
Once guaranteed a starting berth, Williams is now more than happy to continue providing impact off the bench alongside fellow giant Sam Kasiano. The pair combined powerfully once injected against Brisbane last Saturday in what Williams described as the team's most complete performance of the season.
"It makes it easy when you've got Sam coming off the bench and not just that, the last couple of weeks the boys knew that we weren't playing the best footy, or not playing to our potential as a team," he said.
"We knew we had to change something as a team and that's what we did.
"[Brisbane] was probably the best game we've played in a long time as a team. Our forwards played well. That's what got us over the line and that's what made the difference."
He admitted the fact he is off contract is a factor but insisted that wasn't behind his recent form spike.
"That is in the back of my mind but to be honest I just want to play my best for the club and myself and my family," he said.
"[Things off-field] are a lot better now to be honest. The last couple of years I haven't been there (church) and with the injuries it was a bit stressful but I'm in a good place now and I'm happy."