While the guesswork continues, Sonny Bill Williams is playing true to form and keeping any decision to himself on returning to Super Rugby and the Chiefs.
It appears media predictions out of Australia are wide off the mark that his manager is headed to New Zealand and SBW will sign with the New Zealand Rugby Union and Chiefs this week.
Although it has certainly piqued interest among fans in Hamilton with even an unconfirmed Twitter report that Williams was sitting at a Hamilton cafe yesterday - less than 24 hours after he played for the Roosters in Sydney on Sunday night.
Williams' manager Khoder Nasser is thought to have met with the NZRU a couple of weeks ago in Wellington to watch another of his charges, Quade Cooper, play for the Wallabies in the second Bledisloe Cup test against the All Blacks.
But Williams is his own man and likes to make such personal career decisions himself and on his own time.
The NZRU and the Chiefs have put a three-year deal in front of Williams to play here again from next season, fast forwarding earlier attempts to get him back for 2015, which would allow him a second season in the NRL with the Sydney Roosters.
The Chiefs have always been confident of getting him back at least for the 2015 season, head coach Dave Rennie quite open on that matter, but they continue to keep a spot open on the 2014 roster for him in case he agrees to the newer proposal.
Interestingly the Roosters have made no moves to find a replacement for him on their roster.
The 2015 World Cup and 2016 Olympics sevens are the big carrots for his return to New Zealand, along with Williams' often stated love of the set-up at the Chiefs and his happiness while with them here last year on the way to the 2012 Super Rugby title.
It will come down to a combination of factors. Does he feel he needs more than just the 2015 Super Rugby season to play his way back into All Blacks' World Cup squad as a starting player having not been a regular starter at the 2011 tournament?
Does he feel his body can take another season of battering in the NRL? Does the lure of rejoining his mate Liam Messam in Hamilton and the comfort he felt being part of the Chiefs become too much to ignore?
Williams' Roosters are currently second on the NRL table with one round to play this weekend against the competition-leading Rabbitohs and then there are four weeks of playoffs.
A title win by the Roosters would seem a big boost to the Chiefs' chances of getting Williams back early, having achieved a championship goal in his first season of returning to the NRL to honour a longstanding handshake agreement with Roosters chairman Nick Politis.
NRL sources say even if Williams makes his decision early it is unlikely to be announced until after the October 6 grand final in Sydney.
While he announced his departure from the Chiefs before the end of the 2012 Super Rugby season, it was forced on him by the desire of the Japanese rugby team he was initially joining on a lucrative short-term contract to trumpet their prized signing.
This week All Blacks and Chiefs officials were all speaking off the same page in saying that until Williams signed, there was nothing to talk about.Chiefs chairman Dallas Fisher said he was getting frustrated having to answer the same question over and again.''Everyone is saying the same thing. We've made the offer. We're all interested. We're waiting for a decision,'' Fisher said.
''We both negotiated and we've both said the offer's on the table from both of us. We'd love to have him. We all understand why: not just as an athlete but for the sort of guy he is and the fact he sits in so well with the Chiefs. But we're awaiting his decision.
''The ball's in his court and we're happy that it is. And it's the truth. No one's telling porkies, no one's got any hidden agendas.''
So are there any meetings with Nasser this week? ''I don't have anything in my diary, but I don't know about the NZRU because they lead the position, although we're both working on it together.
''It's business as usual as far as I'm concerned.''
Acting Chiefs CEO and the franchise's marketing manager Sean Austin said there was no doubt the presence of Williams on the Chiefs' books would boost season membership sales just as it did in 2011 when he was signed for the following season.
But he said it was impossible to quantify just how many tickets were sold due solely to SBW because of the other factors such as a brand-new coaching team and a number of other new players. There was an overall 20 per cent increase in memberships.
''We were coming off two very bad seasons and there were a whole lot of factors at play but he certainly had a very positive impact, particularly in selling tickets from an entertainment angle rather than a rugby one.
''At the time he signed [last time] we had a father and son who had been coming for several years but all of a sudden we had the wife and daughter. That was the sort of impact he had,'' Austin said.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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