ZAC Williams was low on confidence. 

It had been a long journey to get back to this point. The tale of his 2023 has been often told, rupturing his ACL in February before losing sister Sammy in June after a battle with cancer.

When pre-season rolled around, Williams was a bundle of energy, looking to put the rigours of the previous season behind him. It started so well, making his return in Opening Round when Carlton produced one of its all-time greatest comebacks to win at the Gabba.

Williams was on the verge of tears in the post-match of that Brisbane game when he first saw wife Rachel and daughter Ayla. After such a lengthy wait, the euphoria of being back was evident.

But footy can quickly teach you lessons. As the games kept coming, Williams find his form - and his confidence levels - dipping. 

A chat with the Senior Coach, followed by a role change, turned things around.

“There was a period of time there, a couple of weeks before the Sydney game, where I was low on confidence. I probably wasn’t playing the best footy that I know I can,” Williams told Channel 7 post-match on Sunday night.

“It was a conversation with ‘Vossy’ about maybe a role change or playing higher up the ground. It’s full credit to him, to have faith in me to go forward and be able to play a role down there. It was a good conversation to have.”

A fruitful one, too. 

Since moving to the forward line against the Swans, which also coincided with Williams and the Carlton team wearing the Indigenous guernsey designed by his cousin Stewart James, Carlton’s No.6 has had a new lease on life.

And, in turn, it proved his promise to Michael Voss that he’s been saying for quite some time: he knows where the goals are. 

Only Charlie Curnow has kicked more goals in Navy Blue than Williams’ 10 in the last month, with Williams also recording five goal assists in that time. Over half of his disposals in that time have ended up in scores.

Not bad for someone who has spent the majority of his career dashing off half-back, with occasional stints in the midfield. He’s even learned something new about himself in the process.

“I don’t think I’ve used my left foot as much as I have over my whole career like I have in the past two weeks. Every time it comes off my left boot, I’m going ‘oh wow, that’s going through’.”


It hasn’t been as easy as the stat line would make it, which is to be expected given how new Williams is to the role. When asked who runs the forward line out of Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, Williams instead offered up the names of Matthew Owies and Lachie Fogarty who have helped him settle in with their direction on ground level.

What the move in attack has also allowed Williams was the chance to pay a heartwarming tribute.

Last Thursday marked a year since the passing of his beloved sister Sammy. In every game this year, Williams has run out onto the ground with ‘Sam’ written on his wrist, with a tribute to his late father also in the vicinity.

When Williams kicked his first goal to the City End on Sunday night, the celebration was immediate.

“I’m getting a bit emotional. It was a long week heading into the game.

“I thought I’d pay a tribute to her. I know she’d be very proud, especially playing forward and kicking goals. I don’t think it came off my boot too well, so I’m glad it went through . . . it was a little tribute to her.”