BROTHERS magician Joe Williams played only one season for Albury Thunder.
But the former South Sydney, Penrith and Canterbury star saw enough during 2009 to be confident the once-maligned Group 9 club was destined for big things.
Thunder lost to eventual premier Kangaroos in the preliminary final that season and have since gone to play finals every year including winning the past two premierships.
“I’m not surprised one bit how well Albury Thunder has done because I know how hard Josh Cale works,” Williams said.
“He was always going to be a good coach.
“He demands success.
“Josh was a very good player when he was in Sydney and if he was a yard faster he would have played 100 NRL games.
“The kids have a terrific work ethic down there and the scary thing is that they are only young men.”
While only centre Mitch Seaton remains from Albury’s 2009 side, Williams has an abundance of inside knowledge about the Thunder line-up as he lives with former Forbes player Steve Morris.
Morris saw plenty of Lou Goodwin, Jake Grace, Andrew Cowhan and Mitch Davis playing at Red Bend as youngsters.
“It’s no secret that Albury’s forwards are one of its greats strengths,” he said.
“Virtually the entire pack are Red Bend (Catholic College) players, but in saying that, Willie Heta is a terrific player as well — he’s all class.
“Without a decent half showing you where to go, you can struggle and I haven’t got enough raps for the bloke.
“He has all the kicks, the passing game and, while he’s not a big, fast looking thing, he seems to have all the time in the world.
“He has a genuine footy brain which you can’t teach.”
Williams was keen to talk down Brothers’ opening round win against Kangaroos last weekend, saying the Adam Perry-coached line-up had enormous scope for improvement.
The same can be said about Thunder who only showed flashes of good form in defeating Gundagai.
“It’s going to be one hell of a task,” he said.
“Albury’s team has changed a great deal since I was there but you always want to get yourself up physically and mentally when you play against your former side.”