In a room full of athletes, everyone else looks sick. Sports journalists, often in better shape than the rest of the breed, look pasty, fat and old and full of corruption in the Chiefs training room.
It's mill around time before the big Sonny Bill announcement and the super-large/super-tight dudes, branded by an Australian Bank and a German manufacturer, loll about trying to look casual or not bored.
"The boys are pretty keen," they say, etc, et al, ad infinitum. It's like ordinary girls in a room full of supermodels. The makeup artists work on the talent, trying to make it sophisticated.
The SBW thing is a faded script itself. He's gone, we all know, officially listed as a human bowling ball of tiny men in Japan next year. He'll be playing for a TV company soon.
The two sides of the endless debate are neatly summarised; "disloyal" versus "good on him". The latter is winning, the other undercut by years of money deals and the likely pasting of the All Blacks jersey with the name of a big insurance company.
What's known about him is everything. It makes him important and valuable. The modern entertainer. Dads know his pay. Mums know what his house looks like. Sons know his stats. Daughters know who his girlfriend is. Compared to a talented hunk like, say, Richard Kahui, he is 3-D, an infinitely more marketable property. A Sonny Bill game can be many things to many different people. A guy we know is playing.
The property comes in down a side hall. You think they'd have some kind of theme music going. Some of his team-mates are here, too.
Then a funny thing. He sits down and the coaches speak first, the nice things – dedicated, professional, in it for the glory not the cash. He really likes us. Bull obviously. But.
Williams is working his jaw and swallowing and licking his lips. At one brief point his mouth goes sideways, like he's about to lose it in tears. He could be acting, but it would be a pretty sweet and nuanced performance for someone so boyishly unaffected. Still speaking with the plain and unworked rhythms of a Mt Roskill Samoan kid.
Makes you think. The rumours have been around for a while. About a buyout of an abbreviated contract once in the past. About IOUs still out there. He says it was a deal done on a handshake. But between who? No-one thinks to ask. It stays all speculation and theory.
The show's become a serious thing. Struck with unexpected gravity. Then, midway, someone from a TV spoof tries to hijack it with a hackneyed routine. It dies, horrible and inappropriate, under embarrassed laughs and murder stares from the journos on deadline. But the bubble has popped.
Williams is polite about it, tolerant of the lesser. It doesn't matter, he's out of here soon. Driven by something. The $1.7 million or a love of Japan, or some deal from before. His rugby skills a matter of debate maybe forever. But we're losing our best entertainment for sure.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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