Photo courtesy of Sonny Bill Williams’s official Facebook page
With the contract ink drying under the glow of Nick Politis’s smile, NRL players and fans remain divided over the return of Sonny Bill Williams.
Williams faced the media yesterday to announce the worst-kept secret in rugby league, confirming he has signed a one-year deal to play with the Sydney Roosters.
The 27-year-old admitted his return had been made difficult after the success he enjoyed in rugby union, but would honour a handshake agreement made with Politis with a “glass half full” attitude.
Williams attitude has often been questioned by his detractors, with former teammate Hazem El Masri revealing he was less than pleased with the former All Black’s return.
“I’m not going to lie to you. I hated the way he left all his teammates behind and took off. That’s not what I’m about. I’m all about someone being honest and direct with us.
“The way he left, especially when we really needed him at that time, we were down and out and he just turned his back on us, and that shows a different type of character.”
Williams walked out on his Bulldogs contract in 2008. The irony of returning to play for the Roosters on a handshake agreement was not lost on El Masri.
“For me, the way he left the game, if that was up to me I wouldn’t let him back in the game … he couldn’t honour a written signed contract yet he honours a handshake, so I don’t know.”
Cowboys captain Johnathan Thurston, also a former Bulldogs teammate, believes Williams’s return is a positive for the NRL.
“It’s exciting for the game to have someone of his stature back,” he said.
“To have someone as well known who has done what he has done in three different sports is great for rugby league… He’s going to be a very exciting talent who will attract a lot of media for our game.”
The recently retired prop Petero Civoniceva felt sympathy for Bulldogs fans but was confident Williams will bring excitement to the NRL.
“No doubt there will be supporters who are against him coming back, especially in those blue and white jerseys… But for those who can remember how good he was in his previous stint in the game it will be very exciting to see what he can bring to the NRL.
“As a rugby league supporter, I am excited to see him back in the game.”
Fans voiced their opinions on Twitter, a mix of approval and disdain:
@farhanshah195 – “Re SBW, it’s a money world these days. Loyalty is only for fans. I’m happy that he’s coming back to league! People are always bitter!”
@P_Johnson9 – “And on SBW, the NRL reminds me of the girl that gets cheated on, moves on and finds a nice guy then takes the cheater back #NRL”
@toddbalym – “If SBW is so unhappy coming back to league, then don’t. NRL doesn’t need ungrateful players.”
Williams is expected to line up for the Roosters for the first time when they face the Rabbitohs in round one next year. – Adam Kidd