Sydney Roosters chairman Nick Politis believes Sonny Bill Williams would be an ideal candidate to become the "face of the game" if he decides to remain in rugby league.
The hype surrounding Williams' return to the NRL is in overdrive, officials hopeful that Thursday night's opening game between the Roosters and arch rivals South Sydney will be a sell-out.
The dual international is the headline act and, particularly with Ben Barba sidelined indefinitely, will be one of the biggest drawcards for the entire season.
In a rare interview, Politis said that Williams' clean-living lifestyle would make him an ideal candidate the next time the honour is bestowed.
"He's the perfect example," Politis said."He's focused and a completely dedicated athlete. He's a superstar in the world of rugby, so you couldn't get a better person. That would be great. If he hangs around, why not? It would be an honour [for him]."
Barba is the latest superstar to succumb to the"curse" of being the NRL poster boy after he was given the privilege of officially opening the season.
Brett Stewart, of Manly, was suspended for bringing the game into disrepute only days after launching the 2009 season.
The NSW fullback was later acquitted of sexual assault. Wests Tigers captain Benji Marshall was charged with assault after cutting the ribbon for 2011, with all charges eventually dismissed. And now Barba has been stood down indefinitely to sort through his personal issues.
That Williams could be earmarked to replace Barba, given the circumstances surrounding his controversial exit from the NRL five years ago, shows how much his star has risen.
The 27-year-old has subsequently won a Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks and his defeat of Francois Botha earned him the World Boxing Association heavyweight title.
While all eyes will be on the return of the prodigal son, Politis predicted it would take time for him to readjust to the rigours of the 13-man code.
"It's very exciting," he said."There's been a lot written and said and we finally got there, so it's great … After five years out of the game, there's a lot of interest to see how he goes. I hope there isn't too much pressure on him. It has been five years, so it will probably take him five or six games to wind up."
Politis has watched plenty of football since becoming the sport's first sponsor in 1976. However, he admits there has been a unique build-up to this year's opener.
"It's always good against Souths," he said."Last year, the way the two games finished, it was pretty unique. It was one each and both games were won and lost in the last three minutes. You couldn't get more exciting games.
"I'm sure that everyone is going to have big interest in the opening game and with Sonny. Souths have got a fantastic team, too - they're tipping them to be the premiers."
Politis was hoping that the"full house" sign would go up at Allianz Stadium, although he was unsure how the punters would respond to a Thursday night kick-off.
"Being a Thursday night makes it a bit different - it's only the second year that this is how the season started," he said.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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