Sonny Bill in a league of his own
New Zealand's Sonny Bill Williams celebrates after scoring a try against Ireland(AP Photo/SNPA, John Cowpland)
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From a Parisian hotel room, Sonny Bill Williams once explained the financial difficulties faced by Australian bus drivers.
French bus companies pay above award, and offer flexitime he explained. Few people had ever considered this, but it made immediate sense.
Now, having fanged buses around Europe and New Zealand, SBW now seems satisfied that Australian bus operators have fallen in line with other OECD nations and as a result, will be driving for the Sydney Roosters in 2013.
It does seem odd however, that a man who so impetuously abandoned his written playing contract with the Bulldogs is returning to the NRL on nothing more than a handshake with Nick Politis.
He has now publicly stated he regrets this agreement. Whether he acts on this regret remains to be seen.
He certainly won’t be jobless in any event.
He stood out like a beacon in the first two Bledisloe Cup matches, so definite was his play. Here was the embodiment of league v union writ large on rugby’s biggest annual stage.
He was a rung above, barely exerting himself smashing through the earnest Wallaby defence, while gaily flicking offloads to any one of his bloody minded compatriots.
It was a hell of a display.
Indeed when SBW was involved it just seemed a lot cleaner. He crisply belted opponents to the ground in defence and in attack either broke through, or allowed a teammate to do so.
It was when he was involved that the rugby was at its most watchable. Between those bright spots, players of lesser skill took over and before long we were wading through custard again.
He is a loss for New Zealand and rugby itself.
Now SBW’s transferable skills give him access to options not available to others but in my view the number of athletes involved with multiple codes will increase. Why wouldn’t it?
Rugby League offers the chance to play in a league which is widely loved, played and covered and is at a phenomenal standard. Rugby on the other hand offers uncapped earnings, a lower profile, the chance to travel and play abroad as well as a legitimate World Cup.
Most careers are over by age 30 so it makes sense to cram in as much as possible. Some have even ventured into AFL, notably with mixed success, but it’s the same idea.
Until SBW (Brad Thorn excepted) most league converts struggled for involvement in the contest.
Most were wide men, who only finished off the odd back line move when they weren’t catching hypothermia. Sonny Bill had more touches than any league backs before him and ended up as the centrepiece of both the Chiefs and All Blacks.
Hard running league backs and backrowers ought to take note of the contribution SBW made to rugby so quickly and give it some real thought.
It can be fun and rewarding.
There is a way to make the Wallabies harder, faster, stronger and more aggressive. I’m talking about injecting performance enhancers.
The All Blacks did it. Now we must do it to.
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