Friday, August 08, 2008

Sonny Bill Williams - union convert

Updated --

Sensational Canterbury Bulldogs (Australian NRL) forward Sonny Bill Williams has controversially quit his team mid-season to sign a Union contract with Toulon in France. SBW has a laundary list of grievances against his former club, and is being accused by league fans and scribes as a greedy low-life scumbag. The NRL even wants the IRB to intervene, as if they'll find any sympathy there, har-har!

The 22 year old Kiwi was one of the brightest and most exciting stars in the League code, and could develop into a great Union player in the next few years. It is expected he'll play centre. Brad Thorn is one convert who believes Sonny Bill can do great things in his adopted code -- if he applies himself. The kid has an amazing skill set, with a remarkable ability to stay on his feet, commit multiple tacklers, and still get away offloads. But his legendary bit hits (read: shoulder barges) are illegal in Union, and he'll have to re-learn tackling technique if he is to be successful in the game. *

Australia's Channel NINE has the Sonny Bill Williams "Footy Show" interview with Danny Weidler from last night online:

August 7, 2008: Part 1 - Sonny Bill Williams comes clean on why he left the Bulldogs so abruptly and went to France.

August 7, 2008: Part 2 - Sonny Bill drops a few bombshells in the second part of his interview with Danny Weidler.

In the interview(s) Sonny Bill comes across as quite defensive. He claims he's not a coward, not greedy, says his family has been vilified, and several times runs the risk of making himself to be a bit of a martyr.

But SBW makes some valid points without having to resort to notes on a slip of paper -- something that many well-known veteran politicians (yes, John McCain, I'm looking at you!) clearly seem incapable of doing. SBW wisely won't name ex-teammates he may have confided in, for fear of making them vulnerable. He makes reasonable comments about NRL salaries going down in a decade, asking what other comparable sports league in the world has seen such a slide. He asks whether GMs, CEOs and lawyers should have a salary cap. (Nice can o' worms he's opening there.) He talks about the club farking his teammates out of salary bonues. And he believes he has nothing to apologise for.

Whether one agrees with SBW's rationales or not, I reckon he comes across as a fairly reasonable, mature and intelligent young man who has clearly thought long-and-hard about his decision. And as a fan of Union, I wish him all the best!

Choice quotes:

SBW: "In my mindset right now I'm a rugby union player, and there's a lot of achievements and lot of goals I've set for myself. With an icon like Tana Umaga, who I really think I can learn a lot from, I want to play for the All Blacks one day, so that keeps me motivated. It's a whole new game, a whole new challenge. One day I want to be the best centre in the world."


DW: "Why do you want to play French rugby union?"

SBW: "Two words. Tana Umaga. Simple as that. Everything added up. Ex-rugby league player, union convert. All Black captain. Samoan heritage. Icon of the game. That sums it up really."

DW: "You've mentioned your ambition to be an All Black. Would you consider playing for France?"

SBW: "I'm a through-and-through Kiwi mate, I'm very proud where I come from, and I think playing for the All Blacks would be a great honour."



Sonny Bill Williams sinbinned for shoulder charge on debut

By David Murray in Hyeres
August 09, 2008

SONNY Bill Williams' rugby union career got off to an atrocious start when the former Bulldogs star was sinbinned on debut for French club Toulon.

Williams, who ignored a court order by playing, was sent from the field for 10 minutes after one of his trademark shoulder charges left his opposite number languishing injured for several minutes.

Williams is famous for his bruising shoulder charges on the rugby league field - where the dangerous tackling technique is legal.

However, shoulder charges are outlawed in rugby union.

In front of a packed house of 3,000 fans for the friendly against Carque-iranne-Hyeres, Williams started on the left wing. Although it was an away match for Toulon, a huge roar erupted when Williams took the field – confirming his fast rise to celebrity status in France since he walked out on his contract with the Bulldogs two weeks ago.

Mystery had earlier shrouded the former NRL star’s debut after he failed to show up on the team bus or warm up with his teammates.

The secrecy ensured Williams avoided being personally served with a NSW supreme court injunction banning him from playing for Toulon.

The court slapped the injunction on the 22-year-old yesterday and the Bulldogs were attempting to have it served on Williams before today's match. Manager Khoder Nasser and boxing friend Anthony Mundine supported Williams from front row seats.



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