Johnathan Thurston backs SBW's return to NRL

WAYNE HEMING
Last updated 05:00 14/11/2012
Johnathan Thurston
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JOHNATHAN THURSTON: "As a rugby league supporter, I am excited to see him [Sonny Bill Williams] back in the game."

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His former Canterbury teammates may not be so forgiving, but NRL stars past and present have welcomed the rugby league return of Sonny Bill Williams four years after he walked out on the code.

The dual international on Tuesday revealed he was honouring a handshake agreement with Sydney Roosters chairman Nick Politis by signing on with the Roosters for the 2013 season following a successful stint in rugby union.

"It's exciting for the game to have someone of his stature back in our game," North Queensland captain Johnathan Thurston said.

"To have someone as well known who has done what he has done in three different sports is great for rugby league."

Williams' former Bulldogs teammate Hazem El Masri said he would not allow Williams to return until he had apologised for deserting the Bulldogs and rugby league - a sentiment recently retired prop Petero Civoniceva could empathise with.

But Civoniceva said the benefits of his comeback outweighed the negatives.

"I think if you're a Bulldogs supporter, and I heard Hazem says he shouldn't be allowed back into the game until he apologises, then they probably won't forgive him," said the 309-game NRL veteran.

"But for me, as a rugby league supporter, I am excited to see him back in the game.

"We all saw how amazing he was with his athletic ability and I'm sure rugby league will love to see that back in our game."

Civoniceva, who played against Williams, said the Kiwi superstar had the ability to polarise people.

"He's made some decisions I'm not sure if he regrets or he's moved on from," he told AAP.

"With that comes the way people perceive him and the response he gets.

"No doubt there'll be supporters who are against him coming back, especially those in blue and white jerseys.

"But for those who remember how good he was in his previous stint in the game it will be very exciting to see what he can bring to the NRL."

Thurston said rugby league had a history of forgiving and moving on.

"The fans will love his size, his agility, his speed, his off-loads," he said.

"He's going to be a very exciting talent who will attract a lot of media for our game."

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- AAP

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