Agent key to locking in Sonny Bill Williams
ADRIAN PROSZENKO AND AARON LAWTON
The New Zealand Rugby Union has received an unexpected boost in its bid to keep Sonny Bill Williams following an Australian National Rugby League edict to its clubs not to negotiate with the All Blacks star's renegade manager Khoder Nasser.
Williams has been strongly linked to the Sydney Roosters ever since Fairfax Media photographed him and Nasser lunching with the NRL club's wealthy supremo Nick Politis late last year.
But it has been revealed that unless Nasser signs up to the NRL's agent accreditation scheme, clubs will not be allowed to negotiate with him. The deadline to sign this year's accreditation is only five days away.
The Roosters deal, said to be worth A$800,000 per season, is seen as a fait accompli in league circles but the fact Nasser is not an accredited agent is an unexpected sticking point.
The NZRU had seemed on the back foot in the race for Williams' signature for next year but the battle will take on a whole new complexion if rugby officials can negotiate with the Chiefs midfielder while league administrators can't.
The NRL's Player Agent Accreditation Scheme accepts a new intake of managers every six months – and the deadline for the latest batch of applicants is close of business Friday. There are more than 100 accredited agents operating in the NRL but Nasser – who oversees the careers of Anthony Mundine, Williams and another potential league convert in NZ-born Wallaby Quade Cooper – is not one of them.
NRL player agent accreditation boss Neil Cadigan even took the unprecedented step of sending an email – obtained by the Sunday Star-Times – to all club bosses on November 1 last year warning them not to deal with Nasser due to his current status.
"Of course it is concerning to hear speculation around Sonny Bill Williams and his agent supposedly speaking with NRL clubs when his agent has made no effort to inquire about accreditation, and I have heard from some accredited agents who are not happy," Cadigan said.
"However, it is speculation at this stage and there has been no evidence that any club is negotiating a playing contract for SBW with Khoder Nasser, nor has any club lodged a contract with the NRL for Sonny Bill Williams.
"We have only seen newspaper reports and a photograph of a meeting between Nasser, Williams and Roosters chairman Nick Politis and former director David Gyngell who may very well have been having a social coffee.
"Although it would be naive to think they were only talking about the latest rugby set-play, boxing or the New Zealand economy."
Nasser could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Observers who know Nasser well say he is unlikely to sign up to the accreditation scheme and that bad blood still exists between NRL bosses and the manager after he engineered Williams' early exit from the Canterbury Bulldogs to rugby in France several years ago.
Even if Nasser did bend, simply applying for accreditation is no guarantee it will be granted. Prospective agents must provide a business plan, references and sit an assessment test. They must also attend an orientation day, where they will hear lectures from the likes of salary cap auditor Ian Schubert, NRL representatives and player's association boss David Garnsey. Every application must go before the committee before it is granted.
Williams' exorbitant asking price, along with his demand to continue his boxing career, has scared off many prospective suitors, leaving the Roosters in the box seat if he returns to the NRL. There has also been speculation that Nasser has shopped Williams and Cooper as a package deal, but Politis has publicly denied interest in the Wallaby.
It's been speculated that, should a deal be done with the Roosters, Williams could claim that he negotiated it himself or via an accredited manager. However, there will be pressure on the NRL not to ratify the contract given the former Bulldog's long-standing relationship with Nasser.
"I have had [infrequent] occasions in the past ... where under obvious commercial pressure to sign a player, some clubs are happy to overlook or circumvent the accreditation rules or guidelines for their own benefit – in a couple of cases even after I verified what our rules were," Cadigan said.
"Yet generally I have found the clubs have been very supportive."
The Warriors have also been linked to Williams, although CEO Wayne Scurrah was giving little away.
"I won't say we've got no interest," he said. "But we've had no discussions with his agent of any nature. Obviously he's an outstanding player in both rugby and rugby league but we have not considered any signing."
Warriors coach Brian McClennan said the club could not afford Williams.
- Sunday Star Times
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