What a bizarre experience

MARK BUNTING
Last updated 11:24 10/07/2012

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One of my sillier goals this year was at least once shake the multi million dollar mitt of the adonis that is Sonny Bill Williams. Little did I realise how significant the handshake would turn out to be today.

Have you seen inside Chiefs HQ at Ruakura? Try to imagine the inside of a  seventies, formica walled office building without heating that smells of linament and you're there.

We went along to the press conference where SBW was widely tipped to announce that he was going to leave the Chiefs, head to the Panasonic club in Japan, then on to league. There he announced that he was going to leave the Chiefs, head to the Panasonic club in Japan, then on to league. For some reporters, the goal was to get the unique soundbite, for the photographers it was to get a picture of SBW's face for a change, the rugby union it was about looking in control of the situation, but for me it was about getting a handshake.

After the press conference I gingerly approached him and achieved my silly little goal.

Not everyone has shaken SBW's hand, but those who have will agree that it resembles a large roasting pan with fingers. The bloody thing is huge. In the split second my fully extended fingers were almost reaching the side edges of Sonny Bill's palm, I paused to reflect the significance of this moment. I was shaking the very hand that has held the world cup, fended off some of the world's greatest rugby and league players,  scored that amazing try against the Crusaders, smashed into numerous big sweaty boxers'  jaws and held up the heavyweight boxing title belt. It was when I started to think about Jaime Ridge that I pulled away respectfully.

So Sonny Bill Williams is going to Japan for a while to fill in a gap between now and when he's due to honour a 'handshake deal' he made with an NRL club 4 years ago. The guy who shook his hand back then must've had ENORMOUS hands to have such an impact, because remember just earlier SBW had walked out of a written, binding, long term contract with the Canterbury Bulldogs.  So now it seems a handshake deal is worth ending a promising All black career, but a written contract means nothing?  - note to self. Remember this technique for upcoming contract negotiations with the Radio Network.

But Sonny Bill has done nothing wrong to us. We don't own the guy. His salary doesn't come out of our rates. We always knew he was here for this year and this year only. In fact remember how surprised we all were when he said he was actually coming to Hamilton in the first place?

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And guess what? The Chiefs are LEADING - yes, LEADING the super 15 and are favourites to win.

Over time, we will come to realise it's actually Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith we're really blessed to have, but Sonny Bill Williams has done what he was here to do. He's excited us, he's helped bring the spotlight back onto the Chiefs and after the humiliation brought about by losing the V8's and being named the Chlamydia capital of the country, he's made Hamiltonians proud of ourselves.

And that's what today's stars do. That's what they're about, and that's why they're paid the big - and I mean 2 million bucks over the next two years big - bucks.

The more cynical will realise the 'honouring the handshake' line was little more than blow softening spin, but will also agree that SBW has done us a great deal of good.

Take  the SBW experience for what it's worth people!  We had a superstar here for a while, and we were lucky. And to the nasty critics who say 'good riddance' and 'he's only in it for himself', remember. Sonny Bill Williams is actually just a man who is a product of his decisions - like you. He just happens to have enormous hands.

Good luck, Sonny Bill - and thank you.

- Waikato Times

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