SBW fan Willison gives Broncos ‘whack’ for Penrith test

Joel Gould |

X-factor: Brisbane beast Xavier Willison (centre) is ready to collide with Penrith.
X-factor: Brisbane beast Xavier Willison (centre) is ready to collide with Penrith.

Brisbane giant Xavier Willison is doing his idol Sonny Bill Williams proud as he targets leading the Broncos to a seventh premiership.

The 21-year-old, known around the club simply as ‘X’, has been one of the shining lights for the 10th-placed Brisbane in what has so far been an underwhelming season.

In 11 games – 10 off the bench – Willison has averaged 103-metres and 20 tackles per match, as well as scoring two tries.

But it is the impact provided by the 199cm, 114kg behemoth that has caught the eye.

When Queensland prop Thomas Flegler left Brisbane at the end of last year, the Broncos were looking for an up-and-comer to take their game to the next level. 

Willison has delivered.

Broncos’ head of recruitment Simon Scanlan signed the New Zealand-born Willison when he was a 15-year-old dreaming of becoming an All Black and following in the footsteps of dual-international Williams.

“I was mostly a union boy, so Sonny Bill was the person I watched,” Willison said.

“He was chopping and changing between Super Rugby and NRL.

“I liked his defence … his whack … and his offload.”

Willison wants to leave his own legacy at the Broncos and forge a premiership-winning front-row partnership with representative prop Payne Haas.

“That is definitely the goal,” he said. 

“Payne has been a big role model in developing my game, coming from union.

“I try and mould my game around him. He told me to keep running hard and keep my game simple.”  

Willison has shown fortitude to bounce back from two knee reconstructions. 

Broncos and Queensland lock Patrick Carrigan has helped him in that regard.

“I have had two ACLs (anterior cruciate ligament injuries) and did a shoulder last year,” he said. 

“To come back from those, and now that I am getting some good game time, I feel confident,” he said.

“When I did my ACL, Patty was coming back from an ACL too. We were in rehab together and I tried to follow his footsteps. 

“He took everything really serious with his rehab and is a real leader.

“I had to trust in the process and hope I would come out stronger and fitter.”

Willison, who started in the 32-16 loss to the Warriors last round and was one of the Broncos’ best, has been named on the bench against Penrith for Friday night’s grand-final re-match at Suncorp Stadium.

He will wrangle with New Zealand props James Fisher-Harris and Moses Leota, who he hopes to play alongside with the Kiwis one day.

“I look forward to challenges like that and I look forward to Friday night,” he said.

“I am not going to downplay it – they are pretty good.”