Is Sonny Bill worth the money?
346 Have your say
New Zealand's All Blacks wing Sonny Bill Williams vies with Argentina's (No. 8) Leonardo Senatore. AAP Image/AFP, William West
Current All Black Sonny Bill Williams is reportedly returning to rugby league in 2013. While nothing has been confirmed yet, it seems Williams will sign a one year contract to join the Sydney Roosters next season.
The contract is rumoured to be in the vicinity of a million dollars.
Central to the negotiations is the fact Williams will initially have a stint in Japanese rugby union with the Panasonic club, before joining the Roosters late in pre-season. Williams will also be granted leave during the season to enter the ring in a boxing match in South Africa.
Considering his other commitments, it begs the question: is Williams worth it?
No one doubts Williams’ ability or athleticism. And there are few concerns about Williams adjusting to rugby league from rugby union. Though he’s been out of the code for awhile, he’s an absolute natural. And as any rugby fan will tell you, league is a simpler game, so it will take him little time to adapt to the nuances of rugby league.
The real concern is that you have to question Williams’ motivation if he’ll miss pre-season because he’ll be in Japan, and will also miss some time for his boxing match. Even if his absence does not affect him and his performances on the field, I wonder what message it sends to the rest of the team?
Culture is extremely important in sporting clubs, and rugby league is no different. A tight knit bond between everyone at the club, with everyone working towards the same goals and operating under the same rules, is a crucial element in building unity and cohesion.
Yet if one player is allowed to stroll in when the season is almost underway, then take another break because he wants to fight in a boxing match, it could easily create disharmony within the team.
A coach would surely find it difficult to preach about team ethos, when one player is treated differently to everyone else.
Additionally, will signing Williams to such a short term contract really be beneficial for the Roosters?
Most clubs have a long term strategy in place, with the entire club aiming to build and improve each year. It’s important that all individuals at the club feel like they’re working within a plan. Yet any speeches about having pride in the jersey or the emblem would be fairly hollow when everyone is well aware that the best player on the team is a mercenary – nothing more, nothing less.
In some respects, you can’t blame the Roosters. Sonny Bill Williams was one of the best rugby league players in the world when he left the NRL. If you have the chance to sign someone of that calibre, surely you take it?
I also don’t blame Williams for making as much money from sport as he possibly can. An athlete’s career is significantly shorter than most other professions, and you need to maximise your earnings. You never know when it will all stop, with a career-ending injury always a distinct possibility. As such, I never question an athlete who chases the coin.
However, knowing that your career could finish in the blink of an eye means that you should protect yourself. Signing a short term contract puts your long term earning potential at great risk.
Therefore, I’m not sure a one year contract benefits anyone, Williams’ wallet aside.
The Roosters receive an exceptional physical talent, but any sports follower will tell you that it takes more than talent to win a premiership. The club must be stronger than just one player.
Meanwhile, Williams risks his long term earning potential. And his already shaky legacy will hardly be boosted by him signing a short term contract. Sonny Bill has the potential to be an all-time great. But at the moment, he’s only at risk of becoming an all-time great at earning a dollar.
Again, while I don’t begrudge him that, I also don’t think being an all-time great and earning a lot of money have to appear to be so mutually exclusive.
Ryan is an ex-representative basketballer who shot too much, and a (very) medium pace bowler. He's been with The Roar as an expert since February 2011, has written for the Seven Network and NBA Down Under, and been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.
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