The exclusive Sonny Bill Williams interview
The following extract is from an exclusive interview conducted with Sonny Bill Williams back in August 2008 for sports website The Public Apology, following the footballer’s sudden departure from the Canterbury Bulldogs NRL club to French rugby.
It sheds new light on Williams, depicting him as a cultured individual with a special affinity for travel, fine dining and new experiences.
I arrived in Paris, bleary-eyed, to conduct the first exclusive interview with fugitive league star Sonny Bill Williams.
A nervous energy permeated my once-tired body – I was about to get the inside scoop on the SBW saga! After passing through customs and collecting my baggage, I was free to sample the Parisian delights; indeed, the city is a fabulous feast for the senses.
I had arranged to meet Mr Williams at Parisian restaurant Taillevent, a grand 19th Century town-house located upon the famous Champs Elysees. Slightly late, i checked my coat at the door and scanned the room for my interviewee.
The subject was sitting in the far corner, sipping languidly upon a soft, subtle Merlot. Catching my eye, Williams waved me over before athletically leaping to his feet to introduce himself.
Obviously he needed no introduction, but I was quietly impressed at his assertiveness and etiquette.
The Public Apology: “So I must ask, how are you enjoying the French lifestyle? I noticed that you have a baguette in your bag… clearly you are relishing the cultural delights here in France?”
SBW: “Certainly. As you are no doubt well aware, France is a place rich in history. The food is so full of flavour and the wine, well, there is no parallel. French wine is the pinnacle of viticulture – perfection in a bottle.”
TPA: “It must be great to get away from the fishbowl existence that you suffered in Australia. Barry Hall referred to the “fishbowl existence” in a recent Sydney Morning Herald column. Did you by chance read it?”
SBW: “Who is Barry Hall??”
TPA: “Exactly. Now there has been much conjecture about your salary; could you clear things up for the interested public?”
SBW: “Well reports have been falsified, obviously. The facts are: I am making a million Euros per year and will receive an unlimited supply of Baguette coupons. Also included in my deal was a personal tailor, Felix, who designs me the most current and cutting edge horizontally striped skivvies, and a 20% store discount for all felt beret outlets in Toulon.”
TPA: “Yes i did notice the rather dashing fashion sense. Is this something that partly inspired this European Escapade?”
SBW: “I would prefer it if you didn’t refer to this contract as if it is some sort of Contiki tour. This is a chance to play under the expert tutelage of Tana Umaga and alongside Ivan Henjak – whom i have always admired – and to really change the face of French Rugby, whatever that means.”
Edwards: “So will you ever come back to the NRL – if they will have you, that is?”
SBW: “I love league, you know that, TPA. I grew up playing it as a young Poly boy, so it will always be in my heart. It is silly to rule out anything, really. Acting, rapping, television, journalism, law, medicine… I can probably do it all. I’m just keeping my options open, I guess.”
TPA: “So do you aspire to be an All-Black. Is this what this is all about? Perhaps the new Brad Thorn?”
SBW: “Well I’ll point out that Brad Thorn is very unattractive, whereas I am exceptionally good looking. In fact I once had a well-publicised tryst with Candice Falzon. Have you heard of her?”
TPA: “I certainly have. Congratulations.”
SBW: (continuing unabated) “…But it’s not just about becoming an All-Black. It’s about respect. I want respect. I want people to treat me right, anytime at all. A little caring’s all I’m asking for. Don’t try me, lie to me – patronise me… Talk do–”
TPA: (intercepting SBW) “Excuse me, but are you quoting lyrics from “’Bachelor Girl – Treat me Good’?”
SBW: “Well yes, but it’s all relevant.”
TPA: “Ok. Some may argue that the five-year deal from the Bulldogs was very generous and that in doing a runner from the club you are letting down the current players, not to mention the already signed future players, who are themselves victims of disrespect. Is this a fair assessment?”
SBW: “Come on TPA, if that is even your real name. Who do you think you are, Peter Fitzsimons? Only he has the journalistic clout to publicly refer to himself firstly in the third-person as “Fitz-Files”. Just because you are “employed” by The Public Apology doesn’t make you such a hot-shot. I mean, you probably had to pay your air-fare here, didn’t you? Do you even get paid for writing for TPA? GEEZ…”
TPA: “No need to get nasty, Sonny” (said in a condescending, fatherly tone).
SBW: “Please don’t be condescending by calling me ‘Sonny’, in a fatherly tone. Refer to me in the acronymic form: SBW.”
TPA: “But you were just lecturing me about referring to myself in the third person…”
SBW: “Enough! I’ll give you three more questions!”
TPA: “Ok SBW, I apologise. Tell me, have you contacted the Bulldogs yet to explain your decision to leave the country on the eve of a game?”
SBW: “Not yet, but I plan to. I’ve been very busy leaking text-message correspondence between myself and [former Bulldogs coach] Steve Folkes, so one step at a time.
I’ve spoken to my mates Reni, B.R and ‘Tomatas’. ‘Mase’ gave me a call, and we’re sweet. Spoke to Kids, Azo and Bob-Cat briefly, and got a quick text from ‘The General’. But no I haven’t contacted Todd Greenberg, CEO of the Bulldogs, as such. Not until he gets an appropriate nickname, but he seems reluctant to assume one.”
TPA: “That seems fair. So do you see a proverbial avalanche of players from the NRL following you into the French Rugby Union competition? There has been quite a moral panic back home about this issue.”
SBW: “I don’t think so (pausing to sip from his glass – heartily). There is good money to be made, but the NRL is a good competition. It is a great product – as you have probably heard about ad nauseum lately – but it’s just not what i want at this stage in my life. I want security; I want to set my family up for life. I have dreams – vivid dreams – of being an All-Black.”
TPA: “I’m sure many would love to see you make that dream a reality, SBW. Just one last question and we’ll move onto the degustation menu. I was just wondering… what is your work-out program? You’re just so chiselled (not that I’m perving), but…WOW! Sorry, i have a tendency to blurt…”
SBW: (smiling) “That’s ok, it happens. No secrets, just hard work and good genes, I guess. Sorry to disappoint you!”
TPA: (embarrassed, muffled laughter) “Haha, oh well. Shame. Sonny Bill Williams, thank you for your time today (sound of glasses ‘chinking’), and good luck with your future aspirations.”
SBW: “It’s SBW, actually.”
(Any resemblance to reality is purely coincidental)
Dave Edwards is Chief Editor of fledgling satirical sports website The Public Apology.