Sydney Roosters boss Nick Politis has made an impassioned defence of his prized recruit Sonny Bill Williams by declaring the All Black, rugby league international and Kiwi heavyweight boxer was too easy a target for those who wanted to take pot shots.
Many people, including Bulldog's great Hazem El Masri, have not forgiven Williams for deserting Canterbury mid-season five years ago, but Politis, who insiders say brought Williams back to league at an ''enormous'' personal cost, was somewhat confused by the bad vibes - and poisoned blood.
''Sonny Bill has become the latest victim of the tall poppy syndrome,'' Politis said via email.
''Why shouldn't such an elite athlete be able to ply his wonderful wares without facing a continual barrage of criticism? We shouldn't be condemning his return to our game, we should be shouting it from the rooftops. Jealousy seems to play its part.''
Politis, who is celebrating his 25th year as president of the Roosters, said Melbourne Storm excitement machine Billy Slater's welcome back to Williams on Twitter was a rare tribute to an opposing player and he was confident others would feel the same after Williams made his top grade debut in the red, white and blue.
''I am looking forward to eight great months from Sonny Bill and who knows what will happen after that,'' he wrote.
''He is going to put plenty of bums on seats in the early rounds of the season with capacity crowds guaranteed wherever he plays.
''I have had personal meetings with him, including dinners, and have found him an outstanding character. He will inspire our younger players, on and off the field ... All rugby league fans can be assured of plenty of excitement.
''Sonny Bill is a rare talent and good luck to him if he can turn his talent into dollars.
"Those that are firing broadsides at him should access Billy Slater's Twitter. Billy, the true professional, tells Sonny Bill that it is great to have him back and there are other top players who feel the same.''
And while that is undoubtedly true, there are also those who, as they say in the classics, would not want to be in the trenches with Williams when the enemy was charging with bayonets fixed.
- Sydney Morning Herald
Who is your pick for international league player of the year?Related story: (See story)