Williams' Roosters deal gives NRL $1mil boost

BRAD WALTER
Last updated 09:15 14/11/2012
Sonny Bill Willams
Getty Images
SECRET'S OUT: Sonny Bill Williams speaks to the media after the announcement of his agreement with the Sydney Roosters.

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Sonny Bill Williams's $550,000 contract with Sydney Roosters has already earned the NRL double that amount, with the New Zealand television rights now worth an extra $1 million.

While some within the game are unhappy about Williams's return after walking out on a five-year contract with Canterbury in 2008, the efforts of Roosters chairman Nick Politis to bring him back are set to benefit not only the Bondi club but the entire competition.

Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg may have negotiated a clause prohibiting Williams from playing for a rival club before 2013, as well as a $750,000 release fee, but he wrote to the NRL in February when the 27-year-old superstar's return was just a rumour seeking to host the Roosters in round one.

The Bulldogs even offered to split the gate at ANZ Stadium with the Roosters, but Politis refused to move the match and is hoping for a full house at Allianz Stadium when this year's 13th-placed team kicks off the NRL season against South Sydney on March 7.

However, rival clubs will get their chance to cash in when they play home games against the Roosters - starting with the Warriors in round two. The Auckland-based club has already made arrangements to move the clash from Mt Smart Stadium to the 50,000 capacity Eden Park.

After being a member of the All Blacks' 2011 World Cup-winning team and developing this year into arguably the biggest star in world rugby, Williams is as big if not bigger in New Zealand than he is in Australia and his presence will boost NRL ratings across the Tasman.

With the NRL still negotiating a New Zealand broadcast deal, it is understood representatives of Sky TV have been asking for confirmation of Williams signing with the Roosters as his return increases the value of the rights by $1m.

However, Williams will only receive about half that amount from his contract with the Roosters, which runs from the time he begins his commitments with the club in February until October 31.

Before then, the New Zealand heavyweight boxing champion plans to fight South Africa's Francois Botha in Brisbane after being forced to postpone their November 24 bout due to surgery for a torn pectoral muscle.

He has also not given up hope of finishing his commitments with Japanese rugby powerhouse Panasonic Wild Knights and out of respect to the franchise he did not wear any Roosters gear at Tuesday's press conference.

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With his Wild Knights contract worth $1.2m for a 12-match stint, Williams bristles at suggestions he is returning to the NRL because of the new $1 billion television deal as French club Toulon offered him four times what the Roosters are paying the dual international.

In contrast, it is the NRL which will cash in on his return and possibly the international game, with Williams asked at Tuesday's press conference about his availability for the Kiwis in the end-of-season World Cup.

His profile in Britain, Ireland, France, South Africa and Japan, as well as Australia and New Zealand, would be a massive boost for the tournament but Williams's first priority is performing for the Roosters.

''This is going to be one of the biggest challenges of my career,'' Williams said of his comeback to a code he hasn't played for more than four years. ''A lot of people will be writing me off. Every time I step on that field there will probably be a target on me.''

Inevitably, Williams was asked about the way he departed the Bulldogs and whether he would offer another apology - having done so when he returned to Sydney in 2009 after his first season with Toulon. But after deciding before the press conference that he was only going to focus on his future with the Roosters, Williams palmed off the questions the way he has so many opponents.

''Today is about me signing with the Roosters and that's what I'm going to stick to,'' Williams said.

- Sydney Morning Herald

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