SBW: League handshake payback for Bulldogs walkout
Mon, 09 Jul 2012 6:39p.m.
By Jim Kayes
For a player capable of producing the unexpected, there was no surprise when Sonny Bill Williams made his long expected announcement on his future plans today.
“I'd like to announce that I'll be leaving New Zealand rugby after the Super rugby season, joining the Panasonic Wild Knights,” says Williams.
Williams is going to Japan, for an offer he says was too big to turn down – believed to be $1.7 million.
Still he's struggling with his enforced departure.
“It's tough because I'm really loving what I'm doing at the moment but it goes back to not breaking something that I've promised someone that I'll do,” he says.
That someone is believed to be Australia's Channel Nine boss David Gyngell.
Mr Gyngell helped Williams get out of the mess he left behind when he walked out on the Bulldogs in 2008, less than a year into a five year deal, to play rugby in France.
In return he promised to play at least another season in the NRL.
It's a situation that's disappointed the All Blacks.
“We kind of felt he's playing the best rugby we've seen him play and 2012 with the chiefs and then versus Ireland was a great series for him – so frustrated and a bit disappointed,” says All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster.
“He's missing a real opportunity. He's really found his feet this year in terms of his rugby ability and to see him go play in Japan and then the NRL is a bit sad,” says All Black Dan Carter.
Williams would love to play for the Kiwis at next year's world cup. And his All Blacks teammates, including centre Conrad Smith, know a return to Union is possible.
“It's not easy and I don't think you'll see it happening a lot because I don't think many players will be able to make a good fist of it,” says Smith.
And if he does return, Williams says he would want to play again for the Chiefs.
“Even if there was no money here I'd come play for free.”
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