Sonny Bill Williams Does Not Want To Play Rugby League

I have just sat down and watch the press conference in Sydney in which the Sydney Roosters announced that they had signed Sonny Bill Williams to a one year deal. The contract has yet to be forwarded to the National Rugby League and there is some concern about the way it come about, with no NRL accredited player agent involved in the process. This being Rugby League though, I completely expect this contract to eventually be signed off on one way or another.

The thing that came through from this press conference was that Sonny Bill Williams clearly does not want to play Rugby League. Addressing the media with his arm in a sling, at one point he described his commitment to the Roosters, which he supposedly made three years ago, as a “glass half full” opportunity.

Williams described himself as a Rugby Union player and a boxer. He mentioned that he enjoyed his time in Rugby Union and at one point even mentioned that he is focused on playing in the next Rugby Union World Cup. It was quite clear that if he had his time over again, Williams would not be entertaining the idea of playing Rugby League ever again.

Williams will easily be the highest paid player in the Roosters squad in 2013. He is coming off surgery and will arrive very late to the club after fulfilling his commitments to a Japanese Rugby Union team. He is completely committed to boxing, there is no doubt about that. Then you have the fact he refused to sign anything longer than a “one year” deal with the Roosters….I don’t see why any club would be looking to make this deal.

When you sign a player up for big money in the NRL, you had better make sure they are worth it! That player needs to deliver for you on and off the field. There are very few players in the NRL that can command superstar money simply because there are so many great players in the competition. The fact that the elite coaches in our game get paid so much money says it all. Every club had talent, it is what a club does with that talent that makes the difference.

Sonny Bill Williams has not played Rugby League in five years. No player that has ever left the NRL came back from any stint a better player. All of them, every single one, were a lesser player for their absence  On top of that, Williams suffered a number of injuries in his first stint in Rugby League. That he sat in today’s press conference with his arm in a sling after getting hurt playing Rugby Union in Japan says it all.

When he played Rugby League, I felt he should have played in the centers. I didn’t feel like he had the frame to play among the much heavier forwards at the time. Sure, Williams weight wise was around the same size, but his frame was that of a back. Five years on, forwards in Rugby League are difference animals. Now the NRL is dominated by massive forwards that are very athletic. When Williams left for Rugby Union, Willie Mason was a giant among NRL forwards. Now, he’s just one of many. The game changed over five years and I think while Williams athleticism will be an asset, the pure collisions he will now face will take a toll.

When you are paying a player in your side more than most other players in the game receive  you can’t afford for them to be on the sideline. It is all well and good for the Roosters to point at promotional opportunities Williams addition will afford them but it will all amount to nothing if he is injured. That is not even to mention that he wants to do boxing and will no doubt turn into a major distraction when he is looking for his next pay day.

I can not wrap my head around how any team could commit to a player who is clearly not committed to them. The Roosters are not investing in Sonny Bill Williams, they are renting him.

One last thing that Williams mentioned that needs to be looked into by the NRL. Williams thanked David Gyngell for helping to facilitate his deal.

For the official broadcaster of the game to be getting involved in contract negotiations is completely inappropriate.

David Gyngell made it clear just a few months ago that Channel 9 is only interested in maximizing its ratings in the Sydney and Brisbane markets. They don’t care about anywhere else. That means if the games broadcaster is getting involved in contract negotiations for players, they are not going to be interesting in getting those players to play in Canberra, Newcastle, Auckland, Townsville or the like, they are going to want players to head to the big markets they cover so they can make those teams better and maximize TV ratings there as a result.

The reason we have strict rules on third party sponsorship deals is to avoid a situation where small market teams are at a disadvantage to big markets clubs. If this system is being superseded by the games official broadcaster, we have a major problem that needs address.

I don’t really care about Sonny Bill Williams. In my opinion he is a kid that gets manipulated to make others money. What he does with his life doesn’t interest me, it didn’t when he played Rugby League before walking out on the Bulldogs five years ago.

What I don’t understand is why an NRL club would see the circus that surrounds him as an asset. To me it seems more like a distraction, and that is the last thing you need at a club.

A year from now we will know how this all turned out. I suspect a year from now Williams will be playing elsewhere and his time with the Roosters will just be another stop firmly in his rear view mirror.

Why any clubs would allow themselves to be used like that, I’ll never know….

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