The New Zealand Herald is reporting that the NZRU has tabled a three year offer to Sonny Bill Williams and that they are quietly confident of securing his services for the 2014 season.
The NZ Herald states that Williams has privately told those close to him that he is leaning towards a move away from Sydney and the media spotlight he finds himself under in Australia and wants to head back to the Chiefs Rugby Union team, the one team he has felt a true connection with over the course of his career.
The NZ Herald suggests that Williams will make himself available for the New Zealand Rugby League teams World Cup campaign at the end of the year before switching back to Rugby Union.
This will all come as a but of a surprise to Rugby League types. Williams was thought to have all but signed a one year contract extension with the Sydney Roosters.
I personally felt that Williams would hold off re-signing with the Roosters and maybe have a stint with Japanese Rugby Union instead of taking part in the World Cup. Then I thought he would do one more year with the Roosters before heading back to Rugby Union in 2015….something all sides agree that he will do.
His desire to head back to Rugby Union may not come down to money. Here is the thing though. If Rugby League really does want to keep Sonny Bill Williams, if he really is as good for business as the Sydney Roosters have been saying, the NRL needs to make him an offer that is good enough that it at least makes SBW sick to walk away from the type of money they are offering.
It might not be enough to keep him. He might still leave. However if he ally is bringing money into the Roosters via bums on seats and bigger TV ratings, make him an offer that reflects that. Make him have to at least think it over…
I have nothing invested in Sonny Bill Williams as a Rugby League fan. When he came back to the sport I looked at him as a mercenary. I always felt that he would play Rugby League for the minimum amount of time possible and that he would be back playing Rugby Union before the 2013 Rugby League World Cup even kicked off.
A lot of other Rugby League fans have invested in him though. They have been excited to see him back in the NRL. They have become fans of his. They have looked forward to watching him play games and they want to see him be a success in the sport that made him a star.
You can not deny that Williams return to Rugby League has been a successful one. While I think some people over state how well he has played, his athleticism, footwork and offloading ability have exceeded what I thought he would show on his return.
If he returns to Rugby League it will be a shame. It will be a bit of a blow to Rugby League. I think it would add another layer to a discussion that is quietly bubbling along right now about the games future.
Don’t get me wrong, Rugby League isn’t going anywhere, but the massive influx of money we have seen in the game this year hasn’t fixed all of the games issues. Rugby League has started to lose a bit of it’s own identity. There is no clear vision for the sport right now.
After the loss of Benji Marshall to NZRU, Williams departure could see two of the highest profile players in Rugby League leave the sport in the same year, chasing the same dream, and doing so for less money.
Rugby League needs to have a real think about that. It needs to think about what it is offering athletes. It needs to think about why two born and bred Rugby League players would be so willing to walk away from the sport.
As for Williams, anything is possible when it comes to his future. He might leave the Roosters, he might not. He might end up playing in New Zealand, Japan, France….he might fight another shelf packer from Auckland….who knows.
At this stage I don’t really care what he does, but I know a lot of other fans do. I’m more interested in the way this would effect not only the Roosters, but Rugby League in general.
Rugby League used to be the glamor sport. It used to be the sport that attracted Rugby Union players to play it. You get a sense that Rugby League has lost a bit of it’s shine recently. I hope that hasn’t gone unnoticed by our games administrators.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com