Sonny Bill Williams only interested in No 1

16:00, Nov 13 2012
Sonny Bill Williams sets up Hazem El Masri to score a try for the Bulldogs in a match against St George Illawarra in 2006.
HAPPIER DAYS: Sonny Bill Williams sets up Hazem El Masri to score a try for the Bulldogs in a match against St George Illawarra in 2006. Williams walked out on the club two years later.

Sonny Bill Williams' return to the NRL couldn't have been any more different from his cloak and dagger exit more than four years ago.

On a chilly Saturday in July 2008, Williams turned his back on rugby league when he boarded a flight to London to sign a deal with French rugby club Toulon.

His walkout - just one year into a five-year contract with Canterbury - was widely condemned by his former teammates, supporters and senior figures in the game.

Sonny Bill Willams
SECRET'S OUT: Sonny Bill Williams speaks to the media after the announcement of his agreement with the Sydney Roosters.

But in front of a packed media conference on Tuesday afternoon, Sydney Roosters' chief operating officer Ted Helliar, in announcing the NRL's worst-kept secret, labelled the signing of Williams "a great day for rugby league".

It's ironic that Williams has agreed to join the Roosters on a one-year deal, just two weeks after his original Bulldogs contract would have expired.

Even more ironic was Williams admitting he only returned to the game he turned his back on because he was honouring an agreement he made three years ago with Roosters' chairman Nick Politis.


Williams has enjoyed a stunning last two seasons in rugby, helping the All Blacks end their World Cup famine in 2011 and then contributing to perennial underachievers the Chiefs' Super rugby triumph this year.

His freakish ability has never been in doubt, but despite his polished media performance, the 27-year-old did little to dispel the notion that he's only interested in himself.

He dodged questions about whether he should apologise to the Bulldogs and would he really decide not to face his former side this season with a side-step that wouldn't look out of place on the football field.

This was followed by a non-committal response to playing for New Zealand when they defend their Rugby League World Cup next year in the UK.

And when asked what he thought about critical comments from former Canterbury teammate Hazem El Masri - a man who speaks his mind as rarely as he missed kicks in front of goal - he again played a straight bat.

Williams, who wore a sling across his right shoulder following surgery from an injury sustained in Japan for Panasonic

Wild Knights last month, will link up with his new teammates in February - less than a month before the season starts.

He claims this will allow him time to study how the Roosters play - but not before he returns to the boxing ring.

The nearest Williams came to committing to anything was when he said his main desire was to "push the sporting boundaries" and that he very much saw himself as a boxer.

Becoming the only Kiwi heavyweight champion anyone outside of New Zealand has heard of since world title contender David Tua - isn't going to take him all the way to Madison Square Garden.

But the number of people waiting to see if he succeeds of fails when he runs out in round one for the Roosters, would be more than capable of filling it several times over.