Sydney Roosters and the NRL have avoided a public relations disaster after prodigal son Sonny Bill Williams was finally given the okay to play in Thursday’s season-opening blockbuster.
While Williams still has to overcome knee and pectoral muscle injuries to play against South Sydney at Allianz Stadium, the Roosters registered the dual international’s contract on Friday.
With promotions and ticket sales for the potential sell-out based on Williams’ first game of rugby league since 2008, his unavailability due to a contract dispute would not have gone down too well with fans.
The Nine Network has been promoting Williams’ expected March 7 return for the past month.
Salary cap auditor Ian Schubert requested more paperwork from the Roosters before signing off on the complicated one-year deal, which the Roosters delivered before Friday’s 5pm (AEDT) deadline.
“The Roosters have worked closely with the NRL regarding this matter and we were comfortable with the proceedings,” Roosters chief operating officer Brian Canavan said.
“We now look forward to continuing our preparations for the season opener against Souths.”
Schubert had already earned the ire of one group of fans this off-season, with the Parramatta faithful believing the roadblocks he placed in the way of the club signing Israel Folau led to the former Queensland Origin winger joining Super Rugby franchise NSW Waratahs.
While Williams’ knee was heavily strapped at Friday’s training run, fellow new boy Michael Jennings said neither contract dramas nor injury would stop stop the Kiwi taking on the Bunnies.
“From what I know, he’s playing,” Jennings said.
Williams failed to play in any of the Roosters trial matches after making a late arrival for pre-season training following his boxing bout with Francois Botha last month.
The fight had been delayed after the former All Black had suffered a torn pectoral muscle, an injury Roosters coach Trent Robinson admitted last week was still being re-acclimated to the rigours of rugby league.
Roosters prop Martin Kennedy said the squad was eagerly anticipating the opportunity to play with Williams.
“All the boys are really enjoying training with him and really looking forward to playing with him,” Kennedy said.
“He’s obviously got that aura around him as an athlete.
“He’s just one of those guys you want in your side.”