It was a saga that went on for a lot longer than most NRL fans would have liked, but it can finally be put aside – as both the Sydney Roosters and former Bulldog Sonny Bill Williams, have agreed to a 1-year deal for the NZ international.
It was 3 years ago when Roosters Chairman Nick Politis first approached Sonny Bill Williams about a move back to the NRL, and Sonny Bill Williams was thankful for the opportunity Politis has given him, as well as in signing a 1-year deal at the Roosters.
“I'd like to thank Nick Politis for approaching me 3 years ago with a contract,” Williams said.
“I'm here to announce that I've signed a 1-year deal with the Roosters. Been out of the game a long time, but it's great to be back.”
With Politis pleased that he has finally got his man, the Chairman is now looking forward to seeing Williams out on the field and back to his destructive best.
“â€œThis is a great coup for our proud club. Today, Sonny is making good on his promise to me that if he ever elected to return to rugby league, he would do so in the famous red, white and blue colours of the Sydney Roosters, and we are delighted to welcome him,â€ said Politis.
â€œWe are keenly aware of what Sonny brings to the table â€“ his experience as a professional athlete is unmatched in our game. Not only is he bound to have a massive impact on the footy field, but away from it as well.
â€œI am sure that every Roosters Member and supporter is as excited as the Roosters players and staff to have him joining our club. Even fans of other clubs and codes will be keen to witness Sonnyâ€™s return to the game.â€
With that approach 3 years ago, Williams, whilst admitting at times he was unsure of committing – he knew that he owed it to Nick to agree to the one-year deal with the club.
“If I'm honest with myself, it was pretty tough to agree to what Nick and I agreed upon, but I'm here today to announce it.”
“I've grown to love rugby union and have been pretty successful. When I've done the deal with Nick, a lot of great things happened.”
Currently out of action with a shoulder injury, Williams was granted permission by his current rugby union side to announce his move to the Roosters.
“Shoulder is coming along good. Could be anywhere from 2-4 months to get right. At this stage, feeling pretty good.”
Whilst many fans may not believe that Williams can emulate the successes he had in the past with the Bulldogs, the man himself said that what they can expect to see, is a committed player who will give it his all, in order to gain respect from his new team-mates.
“I met the boys, and they're a great bunch of blokes. Looking forward to getting out there and playing the game I love,” said Williams.
“It's case of looking at it glass half-full instead of half-empty, but when I come here, I'll be giving 100%.”
“He'll be getting a player willing to learn and work as hard as I can.”
“For me, what makes me happy, is as long as I'm performing on the field for my team-mates. Gaining their respect, then I'm happy.”
Williams was keen to make it clear that for those that doubt him, it only gives him more fuel and motivation to perform well.
“A lot of people are going to be writing me off, and every time I step on that field, there'll be a target on me. It motivates me,” said Williams.
“I've been out of the game for five years, so it's a big challenge. I have to be humble, try hard and do my best.”
With the Roosters having some recent inconsistent seasons, Williams knows that he has the expectation factor weighing on his shoulders, and should things work and come into fruition, he did not rule out staying beyond the one year.
“Pressure is on both me and the club. After this year, we can sit down and if things work both ways, we can extend.”
With the manager of Williams in Khoder Nasser not accredited by the NRL, the option that was used to make the deal official, were explained by Chief Executive Officer Brian Canavan – with the boss also confirming the club is virtually at it's cap limit.
“Sonny requested a legal advisor, and we presented some names. It was his choice as to the legal advisor chosen,” said Canavan.
“The contract expires October 31, 2013. As a marquee player, he'd be amongst the best. It virtually fills up our cap.”
With the work that Politis started, in an attempt to get Williams back in the NRL, new coach Trent Robinson also worked hard, in order to gauge if his interest about a return was serious.
“When I arrived in Japan, I went to watch Williams play. I was clear after the meeting that he was serious about a return,” said Robinson.
With Williams to miss some of the pre-season due to his shoulder injury, Robinson knows there will be some challenges in ensuring that he is up to scratch and ready to go come Rd 1 at full fitness – with the former Bulldog already having the chance to talk and meet his future team-mates.
“They're the challenges. There's questions over the process, but that's we do. We work hard and know what the timeline is,” said Robinson.
“Sonny has been in offices and met players, and hoping to help Panasonic with rehab. He's had a chance to mingle with and meet them.”
“We'll wait and see when we start playing in March.”
With the deal official, all that is left is for the NRL to officially register Williams – a process that Canavan will approach carefully, and answer any further questions that the NRL has.
“We submit the contract after today. We lodge a contract with the NRL, and if there are no further questions, the player is registered.”
Williams did make one parting note, however, citing the media's subtle attempts to put him down – but the returning player distanced himself from it all, saying he does not pay attention to it.
“Sometimes you guys (media) will belittle my achievements, but I don't pay much attention to that. I've got a good family,” said Williams.