Sonny Bill Williams reflects on his toughest test
Sonny Bill Williams has described the Kiwis' epic 20-18 Rugby League World Cup semifinal win over England as the toughest match of his career.
As the battered and bruised Williams made his way out of Wembley Stadium after the game he looked a shattered man. He had put his body on the line for the team and copped a fair amount of punishment in the process.
Williams was one of the Kiwis' major attacking threats in the game, but he was targeted by the English forwards who swarmed on him every time he came near the ball.
"I don't think I've felt like that before on a footy field," Williams said.
"The biggest thing for myself is that when I go out to play on big occasions, I play for my family and the fans, but I play for the boys I'm playing with [mostly].
"I want to earn their respect on the field and be able to look at them in the eye and know that I've given my all. That's the best feeling in the world. When I retire that's the biggest thing I'll miss, walking off the field, knowing that I've given my all and you get that look like you've got their respect."
There were no signs of that usual spring in Williams' step as he headed towards the team bus afterwards. He was just a man in pain.
"Everything [hurts]," he said. "I've even got scratches on my face. I got given a bit out there, but I certainly gave a bit as well.
"It was an awesome game, a very physical game, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
"I'm a pretty competitive guy and I definitely won't take a backwards step.
"But I got though a lot of work out there, held my own. Got given some, but I gave some too.
"As you can see from the scars on my face and my body, I'm pretty banged up, but I'll be raring to go next week and these things are once in a lifetime opportunities and you've got to take them with both hands."
Williams is now just 80 minutes away from cementing his place in history as being the only player to be in a team that's won the rugby league and rugby union World Cups.
But Williams says just making it this far with the Kiwis has been such a tremendous achievement and it's something that he's immensely proud of.
"Win or lose it is such a special thing," he said. "Being able to come away and enjoy the time over here with the brothers and put that Kiwi jersey on.
"I definitely fell back in love with rugby league this year, I felt like I earned a lot of respect, just through the way I carried myself and showed that I've grown up a lot as a person.
"So it would definitely top everything off, but win or lose, it's been a great experience."