The NRL and the Bulldogs club have today approached the the NSW Supreme Court in an attempt to curb runaway player Sonny Bill Williams as he arrives in London; expected to continue on to France. A massive test case for the NRL and possibly all sporting codes regarding sanctity of contracts, restraint of trade and international sporting rules – Sonny Bill Williams’ decision to flee while in the early stages of a long term contract is set to see a lengthy court battle.
Todays news comes as Sonny Bill Williams was sighted and photographed at London’s Heathrow Airport, many believing he is headed to southern France.
The Bulldogs, with the support of the NRL, today attempted to lodge an injunction with the Supreme Court, which, if passed successfully, will stop Williams being able to take part in the rival Rugby code for an estimated $3million.
“The injunction will seek to restrain him from training or playing other than in accordance with the Bulldogs contract,” NRL chief executive David Gallop said.
“The consequences of breaching an injunction when put in place are that he is liable to contempt of court proceedings that can involve everything from arrest to seizure of assets.”
Player manager Khoder Nasser has also been subpoenaed to provide documents relating to information on Williams’s whereabouts by Thursday.
Should Williams not front next week, or have a representative appear on his behalf, the hearing will be postponed.
This would be followed by legal arguments to show whether Williams is in contempt of court or whether in fact the Supreme Court has jurisdiction in the matter given Williams is now overseas.
Bulldogs lawyer Arthur Moses claimed the court should have jurisdiction given the breach of contract was committed in NSW.
Supreme Court judge Robert Austin admitted to Moses “you’ve got a bit of a burden on your shoulders” in reference to the Bulldogs bid to track down Williams.
“I’m concerned this is kind of a blitzkrieg strategy,” he said.
The Department of Immigration has also subpoenaed in a bid to help track down Williams, given he would have supplied them with a French address on his departure.
The Bulldogs attempted to have Nasser subpoenaed despite assertions from the controversial player manager yesterday that he was not representing the runaway star.
The Bulldogs claimed they had been operating under the assumption Nasser had been acting as Williams’s manger since earlier this year.
“I’ve been instructed to deal with Khoder Nasser over the last three months and that instruction has come from Sonny Bill Williams direct,” Greenberg said.
“Who we (deal with) going forward I’m not sure.”
Amid rumours Williams may actually be headed for Toulouse and not Toulon, a spokesperson from the Toulon club denied any knowledge of the Kiwi international having signed a deal.
“For me he is not coming to Toulon, and for the (club) president too,” Sandrine Nacci said.
“I have heard about the news this weekend, it was very crazy, but we have no information about that.
“The French union (requires) the French clubs to sign all the contracts before the 15th July … we have no contract signed by Sonny Bill Williams.
“Maybe the president has a contract with him before the 15th July, but for the moment, nothing.”
Gallop expressed dismay at claims from the IRB that they were powerless to stop Williams from signing with Toulon.
“If they don’t have jurisdiction, then who does? Can this rogue club simply operate without rules in their code?
“I find that very alarming, and alarming for rugby union as it is for rugby league.”
The NRL boss gave an insight into a possible reason for Williams’ covert departure from Australia, the Kiwi juggernaut only informing those closest to him of his intentions as he boarded a plane on Saturday.
With the Bulldogs having already stated their marquee talent would not be released from the remaining four years of is contract, Gallop suggested the club may have slapped on Williams to prevent his departure.
“I would have thought the Bulldogs would certainly have done that,” Gallop said.