Could Sonny Bill play for the Kiwis this year?
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams celebrates after scoring a try against Ireland(AP Photo/SNPA, John Cowpland)
At a press conference on Tuesday to promote the October 14 Test Match between Australia and New Zealand, Kiwi head coach Stephen Kearney was asked if Sonny Bill Williams should be allowed to play in the NRL competition next year, considering he may not be available for the World Cup in 2013.
It was tricky question posed at Kearney, but it was his answer that set tongues wagging: “Sonny’s Japanese rugby union contract this year does not start until October 20, so maybe we’ll run him out here.”
At first glance, the wink that accompanied the comment suggested that Kearney was joking.
Yet the reporters at the conference, quite rightfully, wouldn’t let the issue go, and when pressed further, Kearney stated:
“It would be nice to trot him out, wouldn’t it? Nah, nah. I was joking. I don’t have any information. You asked the Sonny Bill question and I just threw that out there. But I might check it out.”
So it seems even Kearney, mid-rebuttal, realised that it’s a topic that is sure to now be raised. And so the question becomes, is it feasible that Sonny Bill Williams could play in the October 14 Test Match in Townsville?
As Kearney pointed out, Williams will not have commenced his Japanese rugby contract, and his New Zealand Rugby Union commitments will have also been fulfilled. That essentially means that Sonny Bill will be a free agent, and could therefore technically be ‘signed’ on a short term contract by New Zealand Rugby League.
How short term? Try one game: the October Test Match.
To the best of my knowledge, there would be nothing illegal about the arrangement, and whilst it certainly wouldn’t help Sonny Bill’s reputation of being an athletic mercenary, it would definitely aid promotion of the Test Match.
Considering the Australian Kangaroos poaching of New Zealander James Tamou, the NZRL would love nothing more than to anger their Trans Tasman opponents, and selecting Williams would certainly do that.
It would surely add some spice to the match, and with many pundits claiming international rugby league needs a shot in the arm, I can’t imagine anything else generating more publicity.
Honestly, who cares if it is somewhat of a publicity stunt anyway? It’s not like Joey Johns playing cricket for NSW; Sonny Bill would be a tremendous asset to the Kiwis on the field.
The lead-up to the game would be an avalanche of media, with everyone arguing about the merits of Sonny Bill playing, and the inevitable Australian player’s comments that they don’t care and will aim to ‘smash’ Sonny Bill.
I can hear the criticism and naysayers already, but I honestly can’t see anything wrong with it.
It may be a pipedream, but I encourage the NZRL to give Sonny Bill a call today, and attempt to make it happen.
In fact, the way rugby league’s eligibility laws are these days, maybe Australia should give him a call too?
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 been a regular on ABC radio. Ryan tweets from @RyanOak.