Sonny Bill Williams is back bigger and better than ever

mastermind5991 Roar Guru

By mastermind5991, mastermind5991 is a Roar Guru

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    Love him or hate him, Sonny Bill Williams is back in the NRL bigger, better and more intimidating than ever.

    What appeared to be the biggest gamble in recent NRL history has paid off massive dividends, as the Sydney Roosters, the club which signed him up for the beginning of his NRL comeback this season, now find themselves as one of the contenders to win this year’s premiership.

    Already, Williams has proven a massive hit with the fans, as evidenced by his form throughout the first eight rounds of the season.

    He has single-handedly turned the Roosters from a laughing stock into a tough, defensive unit through his play and ability to perform in big matches.

    And the rules have changed during SBW’s time away from the NRL.

    The shoulder charge has since been banned, and the question would be how he would adjust to this new rule, given it was a feature of his game while he was at the Bulldogs.

    Additionally, the Australian Rugby League Commission has since been established, and David Gallop is no longer the CEO, having moved to Football Federation Australia to serve in the same role.

    But he has adjusted to that new rule well, and bases his game nowadays through his tough and unrelenting defence, as well as his setting up of tries, both of which the Roosters have excelled in this season.

    Williams isn’t the only man that is luring crowds back to Roosters matches this season. James Maloney, Luke O’Donnell and Michael Jennings, as well as new coach Trent Robinson, are playing their parts in a side that looks to be building towards something special this season after a couple of lean years in the bottom half of the competition.

    Fans, though, should remember that this is the same Sonny Bill Williams who committed the biggest act of betrayal not just in rugby league, but probably in Australian sporting history.

    Back in 2008, Williams signed a five-year contract with the Bulldogs, by the end of which he would have been one of the highest-paid players at the club, only to suddenly sneak out the back door and board a plane to France without anybody but himself knowing.

    He signed on to play rugby union for Toulouse in France, which was to be the first step towards achieving his dream of winning a World Cup with the All Blacks, which they would do in 2011.

    The NRL tried to do everything they could to their powers to stop him playing outside the conditions of his contract at the Bulldogs, to no avail.

    The question that was asked at the time, not by Bulldogs supporters, but also fans of the other remaining clubs, was whether he should be allowed back into the NRL, or whether he would ever make it back.

    For Bulldogs supporters, there would have been one straight answer to that question: a straight no. To this day, the fans still feel betrayed by what he did on that July morning in 2008, and will probably never welcome him back to the club.

    Williams’ betrayal was one of the many issues that David Gallop had to deal with during his decade-long reign as the NRL’s chief executive officer, and one of many involving the Bulldogs.

    In 2002, the club was hit with a $500,000 fine for tampering the NRL’s salary cap, and thus were stripped of 37 competition points and sentenced to finish that season last, when a premiership looked a mere formality.

    Just two years later, the same club found themselves in the centre of sexual assault allegations involving a woman at Coffs Harbour. The club was making headlines for all the wrong reasons off the field, but were doing so for all the right reasons on the field, as they went on to win the premiership that year.

    Then there was the aforementioned Sonny Bill Williams act of betrayal in 2008, the Brett Stewart sexual assault saga of 2009 (of which he was later exonerated) and the Melbourne Storm salary cap scandal of 2010.

    Back now to the main subject. As previously mentioned, Williams’ escape act to France would end up being the first steps towards achieving his dreams of excelling in rugby union.

    He would star for the Crusaders in the Super Rugby competition in 2011, and went on to feature in the All Blacks side that would eventually win the World Cup that year. One year later, Williams would feature in the Chiefs’ team that would win the Super Rugby rugby title that year, after which questions started surrounding his future, as the final year of his ban from playing in the NRL loomed.

    There was one club that was always going to lure him back, and that was the Sydney Roosters. The Roosters had previously had a habit of luring players from the Bulldogs, namely Braith Anasta, Nate Myles, Willie Mason and Mark O’Meley.

    This led to the Bulldogs releasing a t-shirt claiming that their players were “bred, not bought”, in the lead-up to a match in 2008.

    I made a prediction, ironically in 2008, that SBW would be the next Bulldog that the Roosters would try to lure to their club, and although it had taken five years, I wound up being correct.

    Williams had only agreed to join the Roosters by virtue of a handshake agreement made with one of the most powerful administrators in the game, Nick Politis. This agreement was made when he deserted the Bulldogs in 2008.

    That honour would be made when his five-year ban from the NRL expired at the end of 2012.

    His comeback to the NRL hit a few hurdles along the way, one of which was a pectoral injury he suffered while boxing professionally during the off-season. This led to questions surrounding whether he would be available for the beginning of the season.

    Eventually, his injury healed, clearing the way him to take his place in the Roosters’ team to take on the South Sydney Rabbitohs in the first round of this year’s premiership.

    Questions were always going to be asked about how he would suit back into the sport that made him a superstar back in 2004. The rules have since changed and the game has also since revolutionised with the new Australian Rugby League Independent Commission being established early last year.

    And despite a rusty first match back, in which he was flattened by Sam Burgess after coming off the bench, Williams has re-established himself as the NRL player that many opposition teams feared.

    In Round 4 against the Parramatta Eels, he was unstoppable as he played a part in the Roosters’ 50-0 thrashing of the westerners. And from there he has just gotten better and better.

    His first match against the team that he deserted back in 2008 two rounds later was building up as one of the grudge matches of the season. The Bulldogs had, last year, proven that they had moved on from the Williams betrayal and made the grand final.

    However, Williams would produce one of his best performances for the Roosters yet, as he featured heavily in his new club’s pummelling of the then under-siege Bulldogs side (which has since recovered and won two matches in a row).

    And finally, on ANZAC Day last month, Williams was once again instrumental as the Roosters thrashed the Dragons in style.

    Already, Williams has played in some massive matches for the Roosters this season, and has played a role in every win the team have had.

    The challenge now will be whether he can keep up this form for the rest of the season, as the Roosters seek their first premiership since 2002.

    There is no reason why Sonny Bill Williams and the Sydney Roosters cannot go all the way this season. They are in the top four of the NRL ladder, and are starting to play like premiership contenders after two years out of the finals.

    They have barely been challenged (apart from losses to the Rabbitohs and the Raiders), and have taken their game to yet another level.

    There is a lot to like for Roosters fans this season, though the middle part of the season may test their premiership credentials, especially with State of Origin looming. The spotlight will be on Williams during this period, as Mitchell Pearce and (possibly) James Maloney will be away on Blue duty as they try to stop the Origin shield heading north for an eighth consecutive year.

    Williams will most likely return to rugby union in 2015, as the All Blacks look to defend their World Cup trophy.

    The day he leaves will probably be another sad day in rugby league, given how phenomenal he has been for the Roosters this season.

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    The Crowd Says (56)

    • May 6th 2013 @ 7:53am
      Rod said | May 6th 2013 @ 7:53am | ! Report

      He is a better all round player for sure, a tougher player prepared to get in there and do the hard stuff , less flashy moments and more committed to the cause of the team. I think the NRL has shown how far it has advanced since he left as in a lot of ways ,he looked far more dangerous with ball in hand in super rugby than in League.I’m enjoying his comeback still looking forward to round 26 when the burgess boys steamroll him again though !

      • May 7th 2013 @ 11:04am
        reality bites said | May 7th 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

        Rod, surely the fact that SBW has come back after 5 years in rugby, and has dominanted, shows that the NRL has NOT advanced a lot since he left. In super rugby he had a lot more opportunities to run the ball and play creative rugby, but that is because rugby league isa very structured game. You can’t just play ‘ad hoc’ football, it’s all about sets and mistake free football. What we have seen is that SBW as a rugby player (and that’s what he called himself when he returned) has a lot of skills and vision than the average league forward, programmed to hit it up, and win the play the ball.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 8:19am
      Steve said | May 6th 2013 @ 8:19am | ! Report

      Talking him up, he’s carving up absolute donkeys. Half the teams couldn’t beat an egg. Let’s see him turn it on in international footy, unfortunately he can’t play origin. You can’t wrap him after yesterday’s game.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 12:05pm
        Jimmy D said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        I’m sure the 8 teams the Roosters have played wouldn’t consider themselves absolute donkeys?? That’s half the competition.How many other 27yr olds have achieved what he has. RWC winners medal…NRL premiership…Bledisloe Cup win…Super Rugby Championship…WBA International Heavyweight Champion…

        • May 8th 2013 @ 10:33pm
          stillmatic1 said | May 8th 2013 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

          and steve kerr won a bunch of nba titles with the bulls too, jimmy d. those awards bar one went to the whole team and cant really be used as so called achievements to prop up SBW’s status.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 9:03am
      WQ said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:03am | ! Report

      I just hope that once he is finished with his handshake commitment to Politis that he returns to Rugby at the Chiefs in Waikato!
      Rugby League really does not want him and as such he should return to Union.

      • Roar Guru

        May 6th 2013 @ 9:15am
        mastermind5991 said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        It appears, though, that he is enjoying his time back in the NRL, even if it has to be for only one or two years.

        But he has built many friendships with the Chiefs in Super Rugby and there is no doubt he will return to union as the All Blacks look to defend their World Cup in 2015.

        But as it is at the moment, league fans don’t want him to leave.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 12:24pm
          Cantab said | May 6th 2013 @ 12:24pm | ! Report

          Yeah I think 2015 RWC will be his long term goal. Given he only play ~7 minutes total in the big games in the rugby World Cup (final and semi final), I would imagine he would feel like he has some unfinished business; similar to DC.

          I don’t doubt he might want to play league in 2014 but it will reduce his chances of working his way into the AB’s starting line up, so it’s a big call.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 1:35pm
          WQ said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          I think if he wants to play RWC2015 for the All Blacks then his return to League will last for 1 season only.
          As good as he is I think he will struggle to make the All Black RWC2015 squad if he only returns to Rugby in 2015.

          • May 6th 2013 @ 2:20pm
            Victor said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:20pm | ! Report

            And an Olympic gold in the 7s is another factor which may pull him back to Rugby.

            • May 6th 2013 @ 2:25pm
              cantab said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:25pm | ! Report

              Yeah Victor, this 7’s stuff is going to get very interesting, which players will make an attempt at it and which ones wont, its going to mean huge changes in there training schedules which can only compromise there 15 spots and there isn’t going to be much $ in it for them.

              Also will be interesting to see if any (or all?) of the current 7’s guys can hold onto there spots, if (or when?) the 15’s guys make a push for it.

          • May 6th 2013 @ 2:21pm
            cantab said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

            Totally agree in there WQ, but saying that I would not be overly surprised it he tried it.

            • May 6th 2013 @ 2:46pm
              WQ said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:46pm | ! Report

              I suppose we will find out how much he really has enjoyed the return to League at the end of the season?

        • May 8th 2013 @ 9:16pm
          Ra said | May 8th 2013 @ 9:16pm | ! Report

          you Canterbury dudes have gotta get over yourselves there pro – betrayal – what a joke word. He was a 21 year old kid with ball skills beyond his years who was being underpaid and over worked by a greedy club doing sleazy underhanded deals and on the verge of a Mafia-styled implosion.

          What a nerve saying he betrayed Aussie sport. He paid the money back remember. Aussie sports was making bucket loads out of him before he turned 21.

          Betrayed – Canterbury is the crook, Canterbury cheated Williams; Canterbury betrayed the Aussie public, sporting or otherwise. Canterbury has not apologised to Williams for the hurt it caused to Williams, his family, and his people.

        • May 15th 2013 @ 5:32am
          marth said | May 15th 2013 @ 5:32am | ! Report

          I’m a league fan and I want him to leave.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 7:48pm
        derrick said | May 6th 2013 @ 7:48pm | ! Report

        here, here. return to the chiefs and ABs. It’s where he was born to belong.

    • May 6th 2013 @ 9:15am
      The eye said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:15am | ! Report

      I think Ivan Cleary ought to take a bow.Penriths attack looked very good in that 1st half yesterday,they had a hell of a lot more structure and idea with their ball movement than any of the Qld sides are currently showing with a far less experienced and noteable roster.On what he’s shown,Sonnys phenomenal,love to see what Sam B. would do if Sonny hurt his ‘little’ brother.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 6:48pm
        angry bird said | May 6th 2013 @ 6:48pm | ! Report

        SBW brawling with Sam Burgess….. Yeah, that would be fun to watch

      • May 6th 2013 @ 7:50pm
        derrick said | May 6th 2013 @ 7:50pm | ! Report

        There’s a difference between a boxer who’s trained and fought professionally and a brawler. Never get the 2 mixed up.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 8:17pm
          Why would you watch Cricket? said | May 6th 2013 @ 8:17pm | ! Report

          I agree with you Del and I was’nt getting them mixed up, I think the fact that both boys are big, strong, aggressive and athletic would make the match up very exciting to watch– on a football field that is.
          I am guessing that SBW has the wood on big Sammy if it was to take place inside the ring, I’d put my $$ on the Rooster..

    • May 6th 2013 @ 9:24am
      oikee said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:24am | ! Report

      I dont call 11 thousand fans on a perfect Sunday Arvo bringing in the crowds.
      The only time they get a crowd is when powerhouse clubs lke the Dogs Rabbits or St George bring the crowd.
      When he can take on the whole Manly pack like Sam Burgess did the other night, then he can be classed as a good player.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 9:39am
        planko said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:39am | ! Report

        Sam Burgess please pushed someone and ran away like a big girl.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 9:40am
        Roostermark said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        Eventhough the crowd figures were down it wasn’t the lowest of the games over the weekend, personally considering it was the free to air game on 9 I think the figure isn’t too bad.

      • May 6th 2013 @ 10:40am
        Pot Stirrer said | May 6th 2013 @ 10:40am | ! Report

        Oikee, whats the defence for the Cowboys home crowds, They should sell out every match given thier recent success and the players they have got along with half of QLD to themselves.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 11:45am
          oikee said | May 6th 2013 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          Well let’s see, about 1000 miles.
          The Cowboys support all the away teams and have pretty good crowds for a city of 150 odd thousand.
          Sydney on the other hand has 4.5 million odd and cant get more than 9 thousand to Parra/cows, and 11 thousand to two Sydney teams, Penrith Chooks.
          Mate if that is what Sonny brings to the huge crowd numbers, send him back to union.

          When you compare that to 2 Brisbane teams, Cows Broncos, we normally have 40+ thousand at Suncorp and fullhouse in Townsville.

          We can double this game as in crowds and support, in Queensland at least. Bring in a second even third Brisbane team and watch the derbies and game grow.
          It is simple math, and support .

          Queensland is being let down so badly by this code, and surely the people in charge must wake up shortly. I have pointed this out 3 times now in the last 3 months.
          Apart from that lack of sight for Queensland, and the video refs making wrong calls, the game is plugging along fine, the TV ads have been great.
          You want to grow the game, give Queensland more teams.

        • Roar Guru

          May 6th 2013 @ 1:02pm
          Elijah Weightman said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

          Allow me to chime in to this debate. As a North Queenslander, I can say that as recently as 2008, our average home crowd attendance was close to 19,000. Pretty good. However, since then, after years of being confined to the bottom of the table the crowds went away and now we average around 14,500. I wouldn’t call last season a “success”. People up here are growing tired of the home town perpetually underachieving and are making a statement by not attending games. The dilapidated state of the venue as well as the poor quality of the food served there aren’t helping to bring back the crowds either. I mean, the stadium doesn’t even have a roof. Crazy considering the climate up here.

          However, I can assure you that if we had a record like Melbourne, the Broncos, Manly, or even teams like St. George or the Roosters, we’d sell out Dairy Farmers every week again like we did around 2005-2008. There are ways to bring the crowds back, but so far I don’t see that happening any time soon. I think given our poor record (bear in mind that we have the poorest win rate of all teams in the comp), the size of the city and the fact that our stadium is the worst in the league, our attendances are alright. 11,000 at SFS on Sunday was a joke though. The only time we get under 11,000 to a game is if its bucketing down rain, which happens quite a lot at the beginning of the season. You think Sydneysider’s have a right to complain? At least you can sleep soundly at night knowing that your team has a premiership or two in the cabinet. Maybe more Queensland teams in the comp, as Oikee suggested, would increase the crowd numbers. I am definitely in support of that.

          Also, Pot Stirrer, it’s a little hard to get bums on seats from “half of Queensland” when the nearest town is about an hour and a half away. Guys from Mount Isa drive in, that’s about 7 hours away. You guys just have to walk down the road, cross over a bridge, take the train, the ferry, the tunnel, the bloody helicopter and your’re there. I can’t believe Sydnersiders. I can’t wait for Origin again this year, to see the poor ol’ Sydneysider’s whinge some more. They should rename the whole State to New South Wails.


          Rant Terminated.

          • May 6th 2013 @ 1:17pm
            Pot Stirrer said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:17pm | ! Report

            Mate, im traveing 500 klms to go next mondays roosters/eales match. But if QLD is the so called home of rugby league and only has 3 teams whats he excuse for the brncos and titans fans, The roosers had a fullh ouse against the dragons, Penrith onl get 8k to thier home games and if you knew sydney it s not a very pleasant day to travel from Penrith to Sydney. Have the cowboys played the panthers at home yet? lets see what the crowd is then and then we can make comparisons.

            • Roar Guru

              May 6th 2013 @ 1:25pm
              Elijah Weightman said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

              Yes they have actually, 12,431 people attended the round five match between the Cowboys and Panthers. More excuses I imagine? Fair go though, I wouldn’t want to travel down to Penrith either. I’ve seen footage of Panthers running around the hills there. Scary stuff indeed.

          • May 6th 2013 @ 6:52pm
            angry bird said | May 6th 2013 @ 6:52pm | ! Report

            Agree… Dairy farmers stadium is the most uninspiring live football event in the country.
            Seems it’s pretty hard to get any life out of the NQ crowd

    • May 6th 2013 @ 9:27am
      cwrigh13 said | May 6th 2013 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      I’d love to see SBW play state of origin. I think he would dominate.

      • Roar Guru

        May 6th 2013 @ 1:08pm
        Elijah Weightman said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:08pm | ! Report

        We’ll basically see him play the Queensland side during the league world cup. I’m betting he’ll he might find it a little harder to offload when he has Parker, Shillo and Scott charging at him.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 1:41pm
          eagleJack said | May 6th 2013 @ 1:41pm | ! Report

          Parker? The guy will be flat out making the QLD side let alone the Aussie side.

          • May 6th 2013 @ 2:14pm
            maximillian said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:14pm | ! Report

            Im a NZer so I hope Parker is playing for the Kangaroos. He will get owned by the Kiwi backrowers. Ive been impressed by SBW & he seems to be getting better every week as he re-acclimatises back to the NRL. His time in Union has added to his overall game IMO & he now has good footwork & good long cut out passes playing in the backs for the ABs. Im obviously biased but I think he can win the World Cup for the Kiwis.

            • Roar Guru

              May 6th 2013 @ 2:41pm
              Elijah Weightman said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:41pm | ! Report

              I also find it amusing that Kiwi supporters always say things like this but they inevitably never happen. Although judging by the scoreline from the last game, perhaps Sonny bill’s offloads will help the Kiwis cross the line a little more. Maybe they should even play him in the halves to create more opportunities, lord knows Benji and Johnson aren’t.

              • May 6th 2013 @ 8:35pm
                pogo said | May 6th 2013 @ 8:35pm | ! Report

                yeah, the kiwis never win world cups…

          • Roar Guru

            May 6th 2013 @ 2:29pm
            Elijah Weightman said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

            He has been the Broncos best forward this year by far, but yes he probably won’t make the test side, unless he plays some games against the Papuans or Yanks.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 2:08pm
          The eye said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:08pm | ! Report

          Counting chickens there,the back line will be Qld and the forwards and bench will be Blue (with Cam and Scott)Sam T. and Nate M.trying hard but easily contained thus far this year,Blues win 2-1 or better they’re gone.Parker ?Rated behind Harrison
          apparently,so he’s in a queue.

          • Roar Guru

            May 6th 2013 @ 2:36pm
            Elijah Weightman said | May 6th 2013 @ 2:36pm | ! Report

            I’d say that’s counting chickens. With Pierce the buffoon running the clown act that is the NSW Blues, they will be lucky to win a game at all this year.

        • May 6th 2013 @ 3:20pm
          Renegade said | May 6th 2013 @ 3:20pm | ! Report


          Spot on….the majority of the kangaroos forward pack will be NSWelshmen.

          Gallen, Bird, Lewis, Tamou, Watmough, Hoffman,

      • May 8th 2013 @ 9:29pm
        Ra said | May 8th 2013 @ 9:29pm | ! Report

        bro – state of origin is not the pinnicle for all league players, its just a stepping stone for Aussie representation, no more, just a trial match

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