As the saying goes, you get better with age, or more particularly you age just like fine wine.
Sonny Bill Williams is the epitome of that.
Turning 35 recently, he has seen it all. From winning a premiership in his debut year with the Bulldogs, to playing in Europe’s Top 14, to winning back-to-back Rugby World Cups, becoming a pro boxer and winning a premiership in his return to the NRL. And on top of that, he has also seen the highs and lows of being a professional athlete.
Answering an SOS call by the Roosters’ hierarchy after his team pulled out of the 2020 Super League, Williams returns to the NRL seven years after winning a title with the Tricolours.
With the Roosters being battered with injuries, there is no greater time for him to step up to the call and help them cement a place in the top four and help prepare them for the finals as they look to do a three-peat this year.
Although age is a factor, there is something special about Williams. There is no doubt that his body is still in good shape despite having troubles with his shoulder, which required surgery. More recently he had surgery to his knee. The one thing to note is that Williams is an athlete who has played in three different codes and has been successful in all three.
He is naturally gifted with a physique, and is a fierce competitor in the gym and at training, which translates to his performances on the field or in the ring.
Despite his poor outing in his return to league after a long absence with the Wolfpack, it is fair to say Williams still has his best days ahead of him.
Although past his prime, Williams is still a weapon and his ability to draw defenders to deliver that potent flick pass will be something the Roosters will look to utilise throughout the remainder of the normal rounds and the finals series.
Much has been said about Ben Te’o and his inability to cope in terms of the fitness level to be that threat he was when he left league to join union.
Although Williams may struggle initially, I don’t think he will face the same challenges in terms of fitness levels as Te’o. He has played three different codes and has experienced the different training regimes each has. This will put him in good stead and hopefully repay the faith they put in him.
The Roosters don’t normally buy players already past their prime, but when they do, they usually don’t make mistakes.
The Morris twins and Cooper Cronk are prime examples.
Initially, Trent Robinson will have Williams play only ten to 15 minutes off the bench, but as they head into the finals series he will play him for 25-30 minutes to bring calmness and experience to the Roosters, who will be without some of their big-time experienced players.
Even if he fails to deliver, just his aura and presence on the training paddock with the Roosters or during game day and in the sheds will help young players have confidence, especially when you look at players who are currently struggling to find confidence such as Kyle Flanagan.
Williams – although 35 years of age – is still a threat and a great mid-season buy for the Tricolours in their quest for a three-peat this year.
I can’t wait to see him play in Round 15.