Prodigal Sonny shows 'no mana, no loyalty'
Is Sonny Bill Williams really all that?
No-one in New Zealand's long and illustrious rugby history has been accorded more privileges than Sonny Bill Williams.
The big centre walked out on the Bulldogs NRL club then began a self-designed career path. Toulon took Williams, no questions asked, the Crusaders, the Chiefs, the All Blacks all followed suit agreeing to every clause. Williams was offered a place in the Counties NPC team but declined and demanded to play outside Dan Carter in Canterbury to maximise his All Black chances. The NZRFU quickly made the arrangements.
Williams was fast tracked into the All Blacks, overseas tours and a World Cup squad place. Having being granted everything rugby could offer Williams showed his deep gratitude by quitting rugby and returning to the NRL.
Top NZRFU men Steve Tew and Steve Hansen congratulated Williams, thanked him for his sterling service to rugby and told him "the door is always open".
Now Williams is coming back in 2015. Coming back on a five-year contract for the love of the game, the people and the heritage? No, another two-year cameo just long enough for a second World Cup appearance and an Olympic Sevens foray.
Despite not being a regular Sevens player for New Zealand, Williams regards the Olympics as a buzz and a gold medal to chew would be cool.
When Williams took up professional boxing both the NRL and NZRFU complied with his wishes.
Kevin Mealamu and Tony Woodcock have played a hundred games or more for the All Blacks, Andrew Hore played 80-odd tests and many other players gave a decade of service but received no sabbatical.
Arguably our greatest All Black Richie McCaw was granted a six-month sabbatical after 115 test match appearances. Williams was given an unlimited sabbatical after making just twelve starts.
The greatest of his era, Colin Meads, played 133 times for the All Blacks on a $25-a-day touring allowance. Meads received a nil sabbatical.
Williams is held in such high esteem that Meads, Brian Lochore, Sean Fitzpatrick, Michael Jones, Dan Carter, Christian Cullen, Jeff Wilson, McCaw are but minions in the eyes of the NZRFU.
Throughout the professional era when an All Black went overseas to play that was the end of his All Black chances. Not so for Williams, he is free to come as he pleases. All the rules have been changed to suit one player.
The NRL, which was so disgusted when Williams walked out on the Bulldogs, welcomed the prodigal son 'home' last year.
The NZRFU talks about pride in the jersey, heritage, loyalty and the mana of the game but welcomes someone who shows little or none of these qualities.
New Zealand is the top team in the rugby world without Williams and won the 2011 World Cup no thanks to Williams. There is no guarantee we will win the next World Cup with Williams.
Twelve test match starts and Williams is New Zealand's most privileged All Black with rugby's core values seriously compromised. NZRFU chief Steve Tew has said that he is thrilled. Indeed.
View all contributions