“I was offered double what I’m on at Canterbury to go somewhere else and I stayed because I wanted to stay loyal to the club and keep the boys around, but to see him leave like that …”
“It’s tough because he was a player that I really did look up to and for him to leave like that … I had so much respect for him … from telling me to stay loyal and what not … and for him to just pack up and leave like that was very hard to take. So, yeah my respect for him has diminished.”
On the 16th of March Sonny Bill Williams was interviewed by Phil Gould for the Footy Show and he made the above quotes in regards to Willie Masons move from the Bulldogs to the Roosters in the off season.
On the 26th of July, Sonny Bill Williams boarded a plain with the brother of his manager and headed on a one way ticket to France.
He didn’t tell the club, he didn’t tell his team mates.
Sonny Bill Williams had talked to Canterbury Bulldogs CEO Todd Greenburg the morning before he left. He mentioned nothing about leaving the country later that day.
Sonny Bill had lunch with Greenburg and a number of team mates during the week. They talked about the 2009 season. Sonny Bill mentioned nothing of his plans.
What Sonny Bill Williams has done is gutless. Its low. It has universally been described as a dog act, even by un-named team mates at Canterbury.
Sonny Bill Williams is under contract until the end of 2012. He has no out clauses like Mark Gasnier. During this time its reported from his club contract alone, Williams will earn between $400-450,000 a year.
When he last last off contract the wild speculation about where Williams would end up was never ending. There was talking that one NRL club would offer him a 10 year contract. There was a gigantic offer from St Helens for nearly a million dollars a year. There was talk of his playing for the All Blacks in Rugby Union.
It reached a point where Williams, a young kid, took time to sit down and talk with his father about it all. Just 24 hours after that talk, Williams signed a 5 year contract to stay with the Bulldogs, an unprecedented move by the club who showed such a massive commitment to a young player who plays about 14 games a season due to injury.
Williams had been advised by his then manager against signing such a long contract. Obviously Williams could keep signing large contracts every few years if he wanted. However there were medical reports on Williams that suggested he should look to get a long term contract, and the decision to take such a long term deals was Williams alone.
Everything seemed fine until Williams sacked his former manager and moved to a new manager, a man who is not accredited by the NRL. This meant that Williams new manager could not sign any type of contract in the NRL, not for another club, not even an upgrade with the Bulldogs.
Williams was quickly shopped around in Europe and got a few offers. It was official, SBW wanted out of the NRL.
The Bulldogs had him contracted and were not about to let him leave. After plenty of talk through the papers, the Bulldogs invited Sonny Bill and his management to sit down and talk with the club to clear the air.
The Bulldogs heavy hitters turned up to meet their young star player. However Sonny Bill Williams never turned up.
His manager and his father turned up, as did former Rugby league players turned Boxers Anothny Mundine and Solomon Haumono, the only two players I can think of whom have simply walked out and left the country without telling anyone.
Despite this charged environment, the Bulldogs were professional about things. It seemed that after the meeting things had been resolved.
The club committed to go on a major spending spree to ease one of Williams concerns, that the club would not be able to field a quality team.
Brett Kimmorley, Brett Morris, Michael Ennis, Ben Hannant….all signed by the Bulldogs after this meeting.
Sonny Bill Williams was also given a commitment that he was a future captain of the club. Sonny Bill felt as though he wasn’t given the respect of a leading player at the club, and the Bulldogs vowed to keep him informed of moves.
After the meeting things calmed down…or so it seemed.
While everything looked to have blown over there were some signs that all was not well, however hindsight is a wonderful thing.
The French Rugby Union club that had been rumored to be pursuing him announced his signing on their web site. They had also added him to their team profiles online, something that was quickly removed, but that had been picked up on by keen eyed Rugby League fans.
Today, after the fact, a few other bits of information have come out to suggest this move has been in the works for a very long time.
Williams house is up for sale for well over a million dollars. In typical style however, Williams has left the country without signing the correct papers to allow the property to be sold.
His long time girlfriend has been taking French lessons for some time and is waiting for he French Visa to come through so she can join him overseas.
The idea is that to play French Rugby Union, Williams had to sign with the Union club before June 9th, the cutoff point for signings in that competition. If thats the case Williams has known he was going to walk out like this for months, and didn’t tell a soul.
The Public Facade
Sonny Bill Williams wanted it both ways. He hated the media spotlight, especially after drink driving charges and a famous romp in a club toilet with a girl who wasn’t his girlfriend.
At the same time however, Williams loved the spotlight and the riches that came with it.
He was a regular on The Footy Show, he had major sponsorships that saw more attention (And Money) heading his way and even after his big blowup with the Bulldogs a few months ago, Williams was part of a promotion through channel Nine to go and coach a kids team in Northern NSW.
A commitment he ironically fulfilled the day before he left the country.
The Polynesian Leader
In 2008 one common theme with Sonny Bill Williams is that he wanted to be a leader of Polynesian players in the National Rugby League.
Forget that he is a white Maori kid from Auckland, Williams wanted to show the way for Polynesian players in the game and he wanted to be a role model. Its ironic because Rugby League has a history of incredible men of Polynesian decent. Real leaders such as Petero Civoneceva.
Since Williams talk of being a leader it seems that he has gone out of his way to be the opposite of a leader.
For Polynesian players, who are well known for being committed to becoming better players for the benefit of their families, it must have been sickening to see this stupid young white boy trying to make himself a figurehead.
Sonny Bill Williams seemed to believe that just calling himself a leader was enough. It was his little fantasy that some people bought into.
I remember seeing a picture in the news paper a couple of years ago that worried me. It was a picture of Sonny Bill Williams sitting with Anthony Mundine and his hangers on at Mundine’s boxing gym.
Mundine was under contract with the St George/Illawarra Dragons when, in 2000, he had a similar breakdown. He wanted to play at five-eight ahead of Trent Barrett and he wanted to be club captain.
Mundine famously went into the clubs Grand Final re-match with the then NRL Champion Melbourne Storm saying that he saw the Dragons as the true champions and the Storm were pretenders.
The Storm went on to thrash the Dragons 70-10.
Mundine would not play another game of Rugby League. He walked out on the club, flying overseas…..sound familiar?
A lot of flack has been targeted at Sonny Bill Williams new manager, a bloke named Khoder Nasser. Nasser is not an NRL accredited player agent and can not sign any contracts with any NRL club.
Khoder Nasser would not get payed a cent had Sonny Bill Williams seen out his contract with the Bulldogs. Four years is a long time to manage a rich player for free.
Khoder Nasser is also the manager of Anthony Mundine.
Nasser has one job, to get the most amount of money he possibly can for Sonny Bill Williams. Thats it, and that is the job of every player manager in sport.
Nasser isn’t Robinson Caruso in shopping an under contract player around to Super League and European Rugby Union clubs. He isn’t the first to force a club into looking at upgrading a players contract.
If Nasser wasn’t looking at every single possible avenue for Williams to earn as much money as he can, whether that be in the NRL, Super League or Rugby Union, he would be a terrible manager!
The simple fact is that if Rugby League players could earn more money dressed as clowns and making animals shaped balloons, well, kids parties in Sydney would cost a lot less thats for sure.
You can not blame Khoder Nasser. Sonny Bill Williams was given options, he is an Adult, and he has made the final decision to do this to the Bulldogs.
Written On His Grave
At the end of the day this silly young man has written his own papers.
While the Bulldogs and the NRL will make a legal challenge to get Williams to fulfill his contract, no one wants this dog back in the game. The club wont want him festering like a cancer at the club and his team mates sure and hell won’t want him back.
You could make him play in the Jim Beam Cup for his sins, but who wants to fork out $2,000,000+ to teach some young fool a lesson?
The Bulldogs will look to get compensation for Williams, as I suspect his personal sponsors will as well.
Meanwhile this young, talented, injury prone kid has finally made his mark on the games history. He is the player that brought down the ultimate betrayal.
He walked out on his club without a word or warning. He walks out on his team mates 48 hours ahead of the clubs next game. He walked out on the fans who stood by him through all of his injuries and off field problems.
He ran away from his life like a scared little child.
If he was having personal issues, you would forgive him for a mistake. If he was trying to get away from the spotlight alone, you’d try and work it out.
However this is all about one thing and one thing alone: Money.
No matter what he does, Sonny Bill Williams will be the player that stabbed everyone in the back for money. He will be remember as being too scared to face up to his responsibilities and therefore he walked out on everyone that supported him.
Words like weak, gutless and a dog act have been used by all and sundry and to be honest, I think they sum up his behavior perfectly.
This is what Sonny Bill Williams life has become. This is it. Its not a game, this isn’t a test drive. He will carry this with him forever well after he is just the old bloke with the funny name that used to play football.
Sonny Bill Williams has lot all respect in Australia and New Zealand. He has acted like a dog, and no one will ever forget that.