When Sonny Bill Williams left the NRL in 2008, to join French RU side Toulon, I never thought he would play the game of Rugby League again. I thought the way he left the game was way out of line and the ultimate act of betrayal. At the same time though I have always rated him as a player and have the utmost respect for what he has done in both codes.
One thing that really got to me when his return was announced was the furore around the whole thing. He is not god, he is an athlete. When he left we didn’t miss him and we won’t miss him when he goes back to New Zealand in 2015. Like I said, I respect him as a player but I know I’m not the only one that won’t shed a tear when he is gone.
Now don’t get me wrong I want him to play Rugby League, I genuinely do. I want as many quality players in the game as possible. I actually thought he was robbed when they gave Daly Cherry-Evans the Clive Churchill Medal, which was probably a conspiracy against him. But as far as caring about Sonny Bill Williams? Honestly, I don’t. He didn’t spare a thought for the Bulldogs or Tohu Harris did he? So why should anyone in Rugby League be that bothered about him.
And Channel 9 should be ashamed of themselves for some of the press that they gave the bloke. They disgraced the game, they really did. Andrew Johns’ interview with him after the Roosters won the Grand Final was sickening, he basically begged him to stay in the game and that nonsense feature in his first game back when he was on the sideline waiting to come on made we want to puke. Did they forget that a bloke like Greg Inglis is actually on the field? The best player in the world.
If one day Israel Folau comes back then I hope they do show him the same kind of admiration because the way that some people treated him was disgusting. The money was too good to turn down for Izzy but at least he was honest and open about it. He didn’t disappear and do a runner, he fronted up to the criticism and played out his contract. It is actually the NRL’s fault that he isn’t playing Rugby League now after the way they messed up his deal to Parramatta. COMPLETE INCOMPETENCE.
I think the entire Sonny Bill Williams saga dating from 2008 to this very day brings a lot of questions going forward. The main question being, If the money is there to keep these players then why are we not spending it? Lets be honest if Sonny Bill Williams was as important to Rugby League and the NRL as Channel 9 likes to think then they could make him break his NZRU contract in a heartbeat with a multi-million dollar offer that he couldn’t refuse.
Players will come and go but the way they behave on and off the field is what will define their legacies.
One day soon I hope to see Israel Folau, Karmichael Hunt and Benji Marshall back in Rugby League. They have a place in the heart of the game.
If Sonny Bill Williams leaves the Roosters tomorrow to play for Salford or some seriously average Japanese Union team will anybody really be surprised?