Today we learned that All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams, already infamous for abandoning the Bulldogs and running off to France in 2008, is set to walk out on union and return to the NRL next year.

Boxing: lots of money. Union: lots of money. League: lots of money. Everything else? Priceless. Picture: Noel Kessel

To be fair, Sonny Bill is hardly sneaking out of the country in the dead of night this time. He deserves credit for at least behaving like a big boy. But the whole situation still reeks of déjà vu.

Williams stands to pocket a tidy $2 million for a single season’s work next year, through a combination of rugby in Japan, boxing in South Africa and league, probably at the Roosters.

You can rest assured that eyebrows are raised across the ditch. SBW intends to use the Kiwis’ hallowed black jersey as his own personal plaything, swanning off for a while to earn the big bucks in league, then possibly waltzing back to steal the glory at the next Rugby World Cup.

The All Blacks say that he will be welcomed back with open arms, should he indeed fancy another code switch down the track. They should really be telling him to bugger off for good.

No national side, in any sport, should tolerate mercenaries. Playing for your country is supposed to be about passion and commitment, and Sonny Bill has demonstrated yet again that he is sadly lacking in both when the dollars dry up.

There is more to sport than money. This move may fill Williams’ pockets to the brim, but his legacy as a player will suffer.

Sonny Bill is a heck of a lot better at rugby union than he is at league. He could have gone down in history as one of the greatest All Blacks of his generation.

He will instead be remembered as a player who fell short of achieving true greatness in either code. I guess that still leaves boxing, a sport in which Williams is unlikely to be remembered at all

Goodness knows what the Roosters are thinking, if suggestions that Williams will sign a 12 month contract at the club are true. It is hardly worth purging your roster to secure the services of a single player for one season.

But Sonny Bill’s career is living proof that in the modern sporting world, talent can act as a serious substitute for loyalty. Teams will continue to chase Williams because they know he can work miracles on a footy field.

He can also expect to receive plenty of (fair weather) support from the fans at Bondi. The chooks seem to get a perverse thrill from accommodating flawed stars.

In the long run though, the most beloved and respected of players are those who become known for their loyalty and commitment.

Men like Nathan Hindmarsh, Steve Menzies and Luke Ricketson have been among the most admired NRL players of recent times. All of them are one club players. They are loved not just for their talent, but for their passion and dedication.

Williams will never earn that sort of respect. The man has proven that, in the end, he is loyal only to himself. That is how he will be remembered.

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62 comments

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    • Mayday says:

      12:32pm | 09/07/12

      “Jealousy is the fear or apprehension of superiority: envy our uneasiness under it.”  William Shenstone

    • Jeff says:

      12:37pm | 09/07/12

      I get the impression that $BW is the blueprint for the future & Hindmarsh et al are on a one way trip to the museum.

      You can thank the administrators & agent/managers.

    • Old Geeser says:

      12:56pm | 09/07/12

      @ Jeff….you got that right add in the clown man Mundine. Williams has been and still is led by his nose by the Leb and Mundine

    • Jamie says:

      02:47pm | 09/07/12

      Yes terrible that people should want to be paid the most they can for their work.  I assume you work for free and someone else pays the bills?

      I also assume if someone offered you $2 million to do your same job elsewhere you would turn it down due to your high ethics and morals?

    • Steve M says:

      04:22pm | 09/07/12

      nothing wrong with taking a better offer Jamie, but if you cant see what is wrong with lying to all and sundry, teammates included, while you drive to the airport then i feel sorry for you. Mark Gasnier went to France and came back to league. No one said a word. Difference being the bloke acted honourably.

    • Martin says:

      08:55am | 10/07/12

      @Jamie

      You are aware rugby is a team sport, yes ?

    • Tim says:

      12:37pm | 09/07/12

      What SBW did to the Bulldogs was disgraceful but there’s nothing wrong with his latest move whatsoever.
      His contract has run out and he’s free to play wherever he wants.

    • Ando says:

      02:00pm | 09/07/12

      Nothing wrong with him asking but the Roosters are stupid for signing him for 1year and letting him box..

    • Macca says:

      02:48pm | 09/07/12

      @Ando, he won’t box anyone worth their weight (pun intended). He’s in more danger crossing Anzac parade getting to the Rooster’s training session

    • Sad Sad Reality says:

      12:38pm | 09/07/12

      He’s a waste of cash as he’s made of ash.

    • CreepieMonet says:

      12:38pm | 09/07/12

      I thought playing for your country meant that you were the best in the field of your sport?

      It’s nice to think that commitment, loyalty and those such things mean something, but this is reality.

      It’s just like in junior sport, where the ‘Best and Fairest’ trophy is a nice way of saying ‘This guy is the team’s star player’, forget about the ‘fairest’ part.

      The ones who show loyalty and commitment receive participation trophies, if not nothing at all.

    • Tbird says:

      02:01pm | 09/07/12

      Hey I won a “best and fairest” at junior (u14) AFL and I was clearly not the best or fairest or most consistent that year, Mark Fraser (former Collingwood/Essendon player and umpire in the 90’s if anybody remembers him?) was easily best/fairest/ most consistent player but didn’t always see eye to eye with the coach and I did whatever the coach asked of me. Sometimes “best and fairest” at junior level means most coachable.

    • Mahhrat says:

      12:39pm | 09/07/12

      If you want to make sport about more than money, stop the betting that goes on.  Even my “free” footy tipping provides the “odds” from whatever betting agency sponsors that league.

      Why would the sportsmen treat it any differently to how we, the general public, do?

    • Mark says:

      12:41pm | 09/07/12

      I lack an understanding of the differences between league and union, but if Mohammed Ali was the heavyweight champion of the world, then went and fought in the UFC does this mean he can never box again? is it really a prerequisite to be a mature family man to play Rugby? clearly not if the awe in which Todd Carney and Greg Bird are held is anything to go by.
      Kimi Raikkonen left formula one for a tilt at WRC before returning this year to F1. the move was celebrated by most, and if he wanted to go back to rallying he is anyone to judge him?

      if sonny bill wants to try for the Equestrian Events at the olympics, who cares? if he wants to play for the All Blacks and they think he is in the best team, he should play.
      get over your clear predudices and celebrate the effort it takes to be even close to elite in any endeavour he takes on.

    • Bart says:

      07:19pm | 09/07/12

      UFC is irrelevant Mark. It is for plonkers who are no good at martial arts, have no technique for boxing, can’t fathom how to wrestle, and are basically just worn out has been unfit duds.

    • Mark says:

      09:55am | 10/07/12

      @Bart - thanks for extrapolating my hypothetical - it seems irrelevance is something which you are quite well versed.
      Bravo,  kind sir.

    • Amazed says:

      02:58pm | 10/07/12

      @ Bart…You clearly have no idea what you are talking about…1. UFC is not a sport, it is an organisation. 2. Any man in his 50’s that can look like Randy Couture (Look up a photo of him…the guy is 50) doesnt strike me as unfit. 3. You opinions are clearly of someone who has no idea what they are looking at, and you are probably one of these boxing tragics that fear that their ridiculously corrupt sport is on the decline

    • SM says:

      12:47pm | 09/07/12

      The author said

      “Sonny Bill is a heck of a lot better at rugby union than he is at league”

      what do you base that statement on?

    • Eric #2 says:

      01:19pm | 09/07/12

      I agree SM.  SBW will not be missed in the All Blacks for the rest of this season (and beyond).  I also doubt he will ever be welcomed back.

    • AFR says:

      01:30pm | 09/07/12

      Agree as well.

      I remember him playing or the Dogs well. He was a wrecking ball who was heading for superstardom.

    • Lapun says:

      02:28pm | 09/07/12

      I couldn’t agree more that SBW is better in Rugby than in League.  I have said it many times and I feel sad that SBW hasn’t realised it himself.  He has undeniably become a more articulate and seemingly nicer person since he went to Rugby, and after a slow start he was, just this year, showing the extent of his development.  He will get a surprise when he returns to League to find the code doesn’t suit his game as well and he won’t have his previous popularity.  That said….. money of course is behind it but I believe he will regret sacrificing lifestyle and esteem for the sake of the cash.

      AND HE MUST PLEASE STAY WELL AWAY FROM ANTHONY MUNDINE!

    • roarr says:

      06:15pm | 09/07/12

      SBW used to single-handedly destroy games in Rugby League. He’s pretty damn good at union too, but he’s really only come along finally this year and he’s at that prime 25-26 age bracket.

      And to suggest he wont have his popularity in league… invercargill or sydney?

    • Meh! says:

      08:49pm | 09/07/12

      He is a typical kiwi,lazy unfit and way overated, pretty much forgotten

    • lapun says:

      10:05pm | 09/07/12

      Meh:  Clearly you haven’t been watching NZ Rugby games or today’s television announcement.  SBW is a Kiwi, but his football this year has been greatly improved on his previous form in either League or Rugby, he could certainly not be classed as lazy (most kiwis aren’t lazy), and if you saw him today you would have to see that he is presently leaner, trimmer and fitter than we ever saw him here in the NRL before - he is superbly fit!

    • what a load of rubbish says:

      12:54pm | 09/07/12

      Get off your high horse Samuel. It’s called a “career”. Professionals, including sportsmen and women have these. Athletes have a short span in which to get ahead, they need to “make hay while the sun shines”. There is also appeal in having a varied and challenging career, so what if the guy wants to give different things a go? Your “loyalty” reasoning is old school mate, get with the times.

    • AdamC says:

      01:24pm | 09/07/12

      Fair point. Also, I just have to take the opportunity to be the first non-NSW or QLD Puncher to mention how I barely recognize the name Sonny Bill Williams.

    • Steve M says:

      04:27pm | 09/07/12

      correct, loyalty is a trait that is getting harder to find. But the lack of integrity in the way he handled himself is worrying. Want more money? Fine, go for it. But when you lie the way he did….

    • Kika says:

      12:55pm | 09/07/12

      Whilst we over here in the Antipodes can’t fathom how a player can move around so ruthlessly for the payola - this is not new to Europe. Their soccer players have no loyalty to their clubs, move around to whatever club is paying the best. No salary caps too, which helps. I remember asking an English guy about what he feels about David Beckham leaving Man United and going to Spain. He couldn’t see the issue and wished him well.

    • SM says:

      01:14pm | 09/07/12

      Soccer and it’s pea hearted players and supporters is a disgrace.  Let’s not model anything we do on what soccer does

    • Mahhrat says:

      02:03pm | 09/07/12

      @SM:  Pea-hearted?  What do you mean?

      What possible definition of that term can you apply to association football fans & players?

    • M says:

      02:18pm | 09/07/12

      Hey SM, go over to Russia or poland. They have all out riots over there when the soccer is on.

      Pea hearted huh? Just shows how ignorant some in this country truley are.

    • Kika says:

      02:20pm | 09/07/12

      @SM - I agree, but I just don’t see the same sort of loyalty lasting long term. It’s happening in Rugby Union already. League almost. AFL to a degree. It will happen. It’s inevitable.

    • SLF says:

      12:55pm | 09/07/12

      He has a 10 year career if he is lucky, why shouldn’t he earn as much $ as he possibly can?

      Loyalty died in sport years ago. Jeez, you’d think Hindmarsh, Menzies, Lockyer etc etc all played for free the way you bleat on. They stayed loyal to one club bemuse the club wanted to keep them, the club offered them the $ and they were happy to take it to stay.

    • James says:

      04:11pm | 09/07/12

      If you don’t think that those players could have made a bundle more money elsewhere then you’re a fool!

    • Macca says:

      12:55pm | 09/07/12

      The average age of the Roosters squad is about 23. With only Minicello (a one club man himself) and Anasta over the age of 24. They’ve got plenty of room in the cap having let Perrett go this year and Anasta next.

      I really don’t see what the fascination with Sonny Bill is. Huge talent that will never live up to his potential and be forgotten in less than a generation.

    • sir ronald bradnam says:

      12:58pm | 09/07/12

      Imagine having the amount of talent that SBW has Rugby/Boxing/League if I was him I would probably shop my talents around as well. He has the potential to be a truly great All Black but will turn his back on that to come back to a minority sport that that is played in Auckland, a couple of cities on the east coast of australia and maybe a couple in england.
      He will soon get sick of that, as what is more boring than a game of Tackle, Tackle, Tackle, Tackle, Tackle, Kick and repeat 30 times per half.
      I think most people are just pissed that he never got roped into State of origin and if he had he never would have been vilified the way he was when he left the Doggies. Good luck to him whatever he does.

    • Levi of Bris says:

      03:33pm | 09/07/12

      Spoken like a true AFL supporting douche, Ron.

    • SM says:

      04:02pm | 09/07/12

      “what is more boring than a game of Tackle, Tackle, Tackle, Tackle, Tackle, Kick and repeat 30 times per half.”

      Not sure the 4.825 million people who watched Origin last week would agree Ron.  It was the highest rating sports match on any channel this year, and second highest sports match ever watched since ratings started

    • Eric #2 says:

      04:29pm | 09/07/12

      It’s not the league they are watching SM - it has become an event - and the big majority of those watching are more interested in partying than following the game itself.  That’s evidenced by the numbers (low) who turn out each weekend.

    • Emma says:

      01:00pm | 09/07/12

      I am no SBW fan and I dont care much if he leaves New Zealand, but we should see his job just like we see our own. If I had a good offer from a company, I would take it. Especially when its a job you cant do forever. Why do we expect loyalty from sportsmen but not in business? After all its just a business as well.

    • M says:

      01:02pm | 09/07/12

      This article absolutly smacks of tall poppy syndrome.

    • TimB says:

      01:10pm | 09/07/12

      Can’t wait for the Canterbury-Roosters game next year.

      Hasler should tell every one of our forwards to smash $onny to bits.

    • Sancho says:

      01:24pm | 09/07/12

      I literally laughed out loud at the author’s apparent belief that sport is anything other than a big-money business scheme.  Sonny Williams has just dropped the soap opera spin doctoring that accompanies most high-profile football hires.

    • hot tub political machine says:

      01:29pm | 09/07/12

      Meh. Most talented people will move to slightly different industries/professional teams if the move suits them and their family. Why should we treat sports people any different? If someone is willing to pay, why not make the move if it’s the right one? If he gets more cash, well consider it the payoff for hours of hardwork on the training ground. Just like a skilled worker/professional can feel satisfied in their payoff for their training/study.

      If the money he gets is obscene, well that’s more of a reflection on society than on SBW.

    • ace leo ace says:

      01:30pm | 09/07/12

      Whatever happened to your dreams of becoming TV’s most celebrated sports commentator, and eventually writing a novel about your wide ranging career? You have sold out from your dreams. Its called having a job and making money when the opportunity arises. You want loyalty? Buy a dog.

    • Thomas says:

      01:47pm | 09/07/12

      Pfft. Gina Rinehart could make 2 million over lunch.

    • Tim says:

      02:21pm | 09/07/12

      Gina Rinehart could eat 2 million for lunch.

    • sunny says:

      02:01pm | 09/07/12

      “Sonny Bill is a heck of a lot better at rugby union than he is at league.”

      Maybe, but it sure will be good to see him do some shoulder charges again (no nos in union) when he returns to league.

    • Gregg says:

      02:28pm | 09/07/12

      Yep Samuel, you had better get a Clench of reality for SBW is a sportsman who will be long remembered by many and he is not the first player to play in different countries or in different codes.

      If he wants to try himself out in the ring, good luck to him on that too.

    • TimB says:

      03:41pm | 09/07/12

      ‘he is not the first player to play in different countries or in different codes.’

      And how many of those other players walked out on a 5 year contract a mere 1 year in?

    • iansand says:

      04:00pm | 09/07/12

      Quite right, TimB.  How Canterbury can live with Hasler as a coach baffles me.

    • TimB says:

      04:28pm | 09/07/12

      What on earth are you talking about iansand?

      What contract did Hasler walk out on?

    • iansand says:

      04:34pm | 09/07/12

      His Manly coaching contract.

    • Tim says:

      04:55pm | 09/07/12

      Iansand,
      he was sacked.

    • iansand says:

      05:28pm | 09/07/12

      Sachked for whiteanting.  Highly ethical conduct.  Not

    • TimB says:

      05:58pm | 09/07/12

      Even if true (and it wouldn’t have happened if the idiots on the Manly board hadn’t dithered about whether to offer him a new contract or not in the first place), it doesn’t change the fact that he was sacked.

      He didn’t walk out on anything, despite your snarky little post.  He was pushed.

    • James says:

      04:09pm | 09/07/12

      Although he has done (very) bad in the past, there’s nothing bad about what he’s doing now. If someone is stupid enough to accept his terms, good on him. Although I predict whatever team he signs for to have a bad year. Firstly, he’s not that great a player. Don’t get me wrong, he’s very good. But not a legend in anything (boxing, league or union) and definitely not worth the money being talked about when you see what much better players get. And lastly he has no pride or pashion in the team, only himself. That might not affect his own form, but it sure as will affect his team’mates’.

    • stephen says:

      04:29pm | 09/07/12

      He can’t play football - any football -  so let him do what he wants.
      And by the time his boxing career is over - in 2013, early - he’ll be manufacturing, like Ian Thorpe is, a whole new persona that Woman’s Day will pay gladly for ... either that, or Sonny will be hosting Hold’em Poker Nights at Kurnell RSL wearing an eye-patch and knickerbockers.

      Anything for a buck.
      And France deserves him.

    • Grumpy says:

      04:51pm | 09/07/12

      “...Sonny Bill’s career is living proof that in the modern sporting world, talent can act as a serious substitute for loyalty.”

      Of course loyalty doesn’t win games. I can hear it now “Ref, I know he didn’t ‘quite’  ground the ball, but he’s played his whole career at the club, so can we have the try anyway”. yeah right.

      Why is he leaving? He’s good, but he’s not that good. He’s been good for the Chiefs, but not stellar. He wouldn’t have been guaranteed a spot in the run on side for the ABs. I reckon he asked for it, didn’t get it, and his ego took him somewhere else, and of course the money too.

      pfft

    • Garry says:

      06:05pm | 09/07/12

      The NRL club who employs SBW, is only showing all players and the public that if you have the talent you can do anything you want, and not have to pay for it ! ..... The NRL’s Principle & honour will be diminished if this guy is allowed to waltz back in, after walking out on a binding contract , a club, and his team mates…... Disgraceful !

    • Jay says:

      08:40pm | 09/07/12

      I can’t stand the man, but half Sonny bill’s luck if he is raking in the big bucks, not bad for an overated thickhead.

    • mooksool says:

      03:55pm | 10/07/12

      George Gregan, Stephen Larkham, Craig Wing, Nathan Grey and numerous others all took the big bucks and went to Japan. Agree with Emma, Jay and Sancho above - it’s a big business and if someone is willing to pay them…good luck to ‘em.
      Garry @ 6.05 - I think the NRL lost its principles and honour when it degenerated into MurdochBall (super League) - one guy shouldn’t affect a whole code…the game goes on, just as it did when SBW left (and will again).

 

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