Sonny Bill Williams' retention has attracted the commitment of the highest office in the game, with NRL chief executive Dave Smith declaring the administration would do "whatever we can" to keep the Sydney Roosters star in the code.
As Williams weighs up whether to remain in the NRL or return to rugby union, Smith confirmed he had spoken with Williams "several times" about ensuring the back-rower remained in rugby league.
"He's a fantastic talent," Smith said.
"I thought he had a wonderful game on Friday night (against South Sydney). It was a great spectacle. We want to keep players like Sonny in the game. He's an ambassador for the sport. He's just a phenomenal player. And part of that is why we're looking at the salary cap review, and the marquee player idea.
"I'm going to work as hard as I can to keep Sonny in the game."
The NRL has missed out on the signature of Israel Folau, who after rejecting the overtures of Parramatta in favour of rugby union's NSW Waratahs last year has now extended his stay in the rival code.
With Wests Tigers five-eighth Benji Marshall having played his last game in the NRL, looking towards a change of codes with the Blues, the NRL is now faced with the prospect of another star opting for Super Rugby.
Williams had always been likely to return to rugby union and the Chiefs in 2015, ahead of the World Cup that year, but is now strongly considering switching back earlier than expected.
Asked about his conversations with Williams, Smith said: "I've spoken to Sonny on a number of occasions about a number of things. He's a wonderful human being, and I absolutely want to keep him in the game."
The NRL is undertaking a review of the salary cap, but any changes may come too late to keep Williams - who is set to confirm his future at the end of the season - in the code.
"At the end of the day, Sonny's got to figure out what Sonny wants to do," Smith said.
"You support him all the way whatever that is. I hope it's that he stays in the game. That's why we're looking at the salary cap, to make sure we do have the flexibility where we need it. We'll finish the review by the end of the year, and . . . any short-term fixes, we'll put in place. The likelihood is that it's a '15 implementation, but we'll do whatever we can to keep Sonny.
"I couldn't be stronger about wanting to keep Sonny in the game. And it's not just Sonny. It's all of the wonderful talent we've got in the game. But he's a great example on the field and off the field."
Williams was instrumental in the Roosters' round-26 victory over South Sydney on Friday night and shapes as one of the club's key men in the finals campaign, which begins on Saturday against Manly. Not even Williams's teammates at the Roosters, though, have any inkling of where the dual international will be playing next year.
"He hasn't given much away," Roosters skipper Anthony Minichiello said.
"You've just got to let him do his thing. He might have some things planned in the off-season. But I know that he's loving living in Sydney, and loving playing for the Roosters.
"As long as he's loving his footy, hopefully he's going to stay."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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