Money Bill Williams: Sport’s most $hameless mercenary
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.
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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