According to a Jan. 1 (2012, gotta love the news from the “future” 😉 ) report from NZ’s “Stuff” news portal, former (?) All Black Sonny Bill Williams might be pondering moving back to Rugby League after what can only be considered a successful move to Rugby Union back in 2008.
The versatile, multi-position savvy Williams was recently seen lunching with his manager, Khoder Nasser, along with Nick Politis, the head honcho of the Sydney Roosters from the Australia’s National Rugby League (Roosters? Really? OK, I guess it really can’t be worse than “Seahawks” or “Cardinals”) and David Gyngell, from Australia’s Channel Nine.
In this article from the Herald Sun, Williams is ready to sign a five-year, $4 million deal with the Roosters in 2013. Why the wait? And why does this matter? In 2008 Williams left the Canterbury Bulldogs, and Rugby League, to cash a paycheck playing Rugby Union in France (a popular landing spot for ruggers looking to extend their careers (see Wilkinson, Johnny), revive their careers (see Henson, Gavin), or make more money (as was apparently the case here)). At the time, Williams was 18 months into a 5-year contract with the Bulldogs. The French club Williams signed on with ended up having to pay a 300,000-pound transfer fee for his services. But one clause in his release prevents Williams from playing for a rival National Rugby League club – that clause expires in 2012, opening up new options for him in the following year.
(For more on the war raging between rugby league and rugby union, please read this.)
I’m torn on this one, on one hand it’s surprising to me that anyone playing for the All Blacks, and landing deals to play in New Zealand’s national competition and for New Zealand teams in the Super Rugby international pro league would turn their back on the opportunity, especially having just come off of a World Cup victory campaign. Of course, I’m also an All Blacks mark as well, the Kiwi’s being near and dear to my heart.
On the other hand, this is par for the course for the mercurial Williams. In addition to the jump from Rugby League to Rugby Union and the expected jump back (each time for monetary reasons), Williams is also a professional boxer (as are a few rugby professionals, or former rugby pros) and representative of the aforementioned Australia Channel Nine.
Plus Williams’ agent, Khoder Nasser, is a very shrewd, and hard-ass, negotiator – Nasser is a rare rugby agent, comfortable not being part of the “elite, privately educated clique” that much of professional rugby still pride themselves on being connected to. Nasser sees his job as shaking up this system, and getting as much money as possible for his client (and by extension himself) – bringing an interesting personal focus to what has always been considered a “team-first” rugby mentality.
It will be interesting to see what the next couple of years bring to the pair of Williams and Nasser, will the move back to Rugby League prove lucrative for them? Have they burned their bridges with the All Blacks and a potential 2015 RWC championship run?