In demand: Sonny Bill Williams has been courted by NRL boss Dave Smith to keep the Roosters star in the game. Photo: Anthony JohnsonExpect plenty of speculation in the lead up to the grand final about where Sonny Bill Williams will play next season, but unless Channel Nine really can broadcast his inner thoughts as they made out in his NRL return, it will be pure guesswork.
Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis does not know, New Zealand Rugby Union bosses do not know, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie does not know and possibly even members of Williams own family do not know what he plans to do.
Politis and the Roosters are desperate for the 28-year-old superstar credited with lifting home crowds by 54 per cent to stay but the NZRU want him ahead of their Rugby World Cup defence in 2015 and are using the 2016 Olympic Games as a lure.
While it is unlikely he could resist the opportunity to win a second world cup and an Olympic gold medal, Williams plans beyond the grand final are a mystery and after making a seamless return from his five year NRL exile he would have no fears about switching codes again in 2015 rather than next season .
So uncertain is Williams immediate future that his agent, promoter and close friend Khoder Nasser hasn’t yet organised an off-season fight for the dual international, who is expected to defend the WBA International heavyweight belt he won against Francois Botha just weeks before the round one clash with South Sydney.
Since quitting the Bulldogs in 2008, Williams has only signed for one season at a time but his stints in French and New Zealand rugby union lasted two years each.
NRL chief executive Dave Smith regularly texts or phones Williams to let him know how much he is valued by the game’s hierarchy and has been working with Politis in a bid to ensure he stays beyond this season.
But Roosters supporters looking for a clue as to whether the grand final is Williams’ farewell appearance before returning to New Zealand rugby union or he will stay should know that his decision won’t be dictated by money.
Public adulation and private backslapping are unlikely to sway him either as he walked out on not only the Bulldogs but also the All Blacks at the peak of his popularity to take up a new challenge in a new code and a new country.
While some Canterbury fans may never get over Williams departure in 2008 while still under contract, much as Ricky Stuart has recently done at Parramatta, it was a brave decision to turn his back on all that he knew and switch to rugby union in France.
Not only did the then 22-year-old risk his reputation but his financial security as he paid the Bulldogs $750,000 to release him from his $400,000 per year contract and effectively played his first season with Toulon for nothing.
At the time, the move was a huge gamble as he battled injury, homesickness and negative headlines from those willing him to fail but after his second season Williams was being offered $2 million per year and the France No.12 jersey at the 2011 Rugby World Cup if he stayed.
Again, Williams chose to move outside his comfort zone and put financial security and a guaranteed World Cup spot at risk by returning to his native New Zealand to pursue an All Blacks jersey amid enormous scrutiny in a country where rugby union is a religion and he was an outsider.
Williams never really fitted in at the Crusaders but he helped qualify for the Super Rugby final against Queensland in a debut season in which he finished No.1 for offloads and No.2 for line-breaks before leaving to spearhead the Chiefs’ charge from 13th place in 2011 to last year’s title.
Along the way, he cemented his place in the All Blacks side and was described by former England forward Paul Ackford as “the greatest rugby union talent operating at the moment”, and boasting the skills of a Lionel Messi and marketability of David Beckham.
Yet Williams turned his back on it all to honour a handshake deal with Politis and is now one win away from an NRL premiership.
Then he will announce his plans for next season.
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