Sonny Bill Williams eyes big-money move to AFL

Geoff Lemon Columnist

By Geoff Lemon, Geoff Lemon is a Roar Expert

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    The AFL’s poachers are gunning for their biggest trophy yet, with rugby union and league star Sonny Bill Williams offered a multimillion-dollar deal to commence after next year’s Rugby World Cup.

    In what may be a strategic leak by either party, two Sydney sports journalists have reported receiving details that AFL boss Andrew Demetriou personally met with Williams in January, in a preliminary discussion arranged by controversial agent Khoder Nasser.

    While no deal was reached, Demetriou was able to make his pitch regarding a potential code swap, including the outline of an offer that could reach $3 million for a one-off trial season.

    Much of the deal would be funded by the AFL itself as a promotional expense. Given Demetriou’s commitment to his pet expansion teams, the Greater Western Sydney Giants are the most likely candidate for Williams’ services.

    The star utility is contracted to play the 2014 NRL season with the Sydney Roosters, then code-swap to Super Rugby side the Chiefs in preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

    He has already won two NRL premierships, a Super Rugby title, and a Rugby World Cup. By the end of next year he could feasibly have another of each. Particularly if the All Blacks defend their title, Williams may feel he has little left to achieve in either code.

    That at least was the AFL’s pitch – that extending his CV with success in their arena would see SBW regarded as the greatest sporting all-rounder the Australasian region has ever seen. The Giants will be real prospects by 2016, and Williams’ magic touch might just help them make history.

    For his part, Williams has always made a point of calling himself an athlete, not a rugby player. His desire to prove himself, allied with Nasser’s desire for currency, has seen Williams code-swap between the two forms of rugby since 2008, while also finding time for six heavyweight boxing bouts.

    Adjusting to Australian Rules, however, is much more complicated, as Israel Folau learnt to his cost. Former GWS coach Kevin Sheedy backed Williams on Melbourne breakfast radio this morning, but said that a position up forward might be too steep a learning curve.

    “I’d get him in the centre,” said Sheedy. “Huge bloke but he’s got beautiful hands. Get someone his size coming through at the bounce, laying tackles or running the ball out, and you’ll have the rest getting out of his way.”

    Current Giants coach Leon Cameron was less excitable, denying all knowledge on arriving at the club today.

    “Nothing at all,” he said. “I don’t know who might talk to who when I’m not there, but we’ve got a very good list and we’re very happy to be developing it.”

    Even if the experiment is as unsuccessful as Folau’s, the attention it would bring would be more than worth the price. Cashing in on that value may have started today, with the leak possibly coming from the AFL to distract from the Essendon drugs saga, or from Nasser to drive up the asking price.

    Neither party has yet been available for comment, with only Demetriou’s deputy Gilllon McLachlan offering a cryptic response at a general press briefing.

    “I can’t speak to every conversation Andrew may or may not have. Andrew has a lot of conversations with a lot of people, and any conversations any of us have are in the best interests of the game.”

    Thanks for enjoying this year’s April fools posts. It’s been great to hear the love (and hate) about our efforts this year. Tune in next year for another instalment.

    Geoff Lemon
    Geoff Lemon

    Geoff Lemon is a writer, editor and broadcaster covering sport for The Roar, The Guardian and ABC, as well as writing on politics, literature and history for a range of outlets.

    He tweets from @GeoffLemonSport.

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    The Crowd Says (60)

    • April 1st 2014 @ 3:14am
      Muzz said | April 1st 2014 @ 3:14am | ! Report

      Geoff – Where did you here this? I cannot find any other news source to back up these rumours.It’s as likely to happen as it is to snow in Bondi.

      Just crazy!

      • April 1st 2014 @ 3:54am
        nerval said | April 1st 2014 @ 3:54am | ! Report

        Check the date, Muzz.

        • April 1st 2014 @ 3:57am
          Muzz said | April 1st 2014 @ 3:57am | ! Report

          HAHAHAHAHA Thanks for that mate HAHAHAHAHAH

          • April 1st 2014 @ 4:00am
            Muzz said | April 1st 2014 @ 4:00am | ! Report

            You got me good,Geoff

        • April 1st 2014 @ 4:32am
          kamil said | April 1st 2014 @ 4:32am | ! Report

          wow that was brilliant… never saw that coming…..

          • April 1st 2014 @ 8:56am
            Jacques said | April 1st 2014 @ 8:56am | ! Report

            It got me too lol

        • April 1st 2014 @ 8:21am
          therugbyfan said | April 1st 2014 @ 8:21am | ! Report


          • Columnist

            April 1st 2014 @ 3:33pm
            Geoff Lemon said | April 1st 2014 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

            The jig is up. Cheers all. Enjoyed that one 🙂

      • April 1st 2014 @ 7:54am
        Kasey said | April 1st 2014 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Nice. The headline was enough to get a smirk out of me before I remembered the date.

    • April 1st 2014 @ 3:33am
      Bill said | April 1st 2014 @ 3:33am | ! Report

      Must be the 1st of April.

    • April 1st 2014 @ 3:57am
      Football United said | April 1st 2014 @ 3:57am | ! Report

      Might ruffle some feathers but is AFL that insecure that it feels it needs to bring in these big names from NSW and QLD to validate their game. I’d have thought they be happy with having plenty of their own stars like Goodes, Franklin and Ablett who can actually play the game rather than playing these silly games of cross code limbo.

      • April 1st 2014 @ 4:43am
        Menace said | April 1st 2014 @ 4:43am | ! Report

        Football United

        Any chance you might have missed the date here.

        • April 1st 2014 @ 5:19am
          Football United said | April 1st 2014 @ 5:19am | ! Report

          Ah of course, full retraction of comments is needed here.

    • April 1st 2014 @ 4:40am
      DubbleBubble said | April 1st 2014 @ 4:40am | ! Report

      Well played Sir.

      • April 1st 2014 @ 4:53am
        Menace said | April 1st 2014 @ 4:53am | ! Report

        The other April Fools joke is that someone has finally analyzed the NRL draw and discovered it favours the Warriors.

        Other codes do this when the draw is released – why does it take the NRL so long to analyze. The AFL seeds teams so the weak play the weak and the Super 15 draw is all vrs all but some teams get to play teams who have travelled far the previous week. One assumes the NRL is keen for the Kiwis to have a big year after RLWC, Nines, games in NZ etc to establish and build a team in Wellington

        • April 1st 2014 @ 7:18am
          Rodney said | April 1st 2014 @ 7:18am | ! Report

          but they don’t
          They play 4 of last years top 8 twice as well as 4 of the bottom 8 twice. Pretty fair in all.
          Buzz is a hack, and clutches at any grievance he possibly can to try and degrade the league.

    • April 1st 2014 @ 5:21am
      rugby chick said | April 1st 2014 @ 5:21am | ! Report

      Happy April fools day everyone.

    • April 1st 2014 @ 6:25am
      expathack said | April 1st 2014 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      Headline had me going for an impressive 10 seconds.

      What’s he going to do next? Take up boxing?

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