Sonny Bill Williams flew back into Sydney almost 12 years to the day after he walked out on the final four years of his Bulldogs deal. The ironies were many: he was landing in his home city with two contracts, and the blessing of the game’s governing body.
More than that, he is a wanted man at the Bulldogs, a club he paid $750,000 to extricate himself from in 2008.
Sonny Bill Williams left the Bulldogs in 2008.Credit:Getty
Politis will take personally any attempt to land SBW’s signature. The Roosters supremo regards Williams as one of his great signings — if not his greatest. He made Cooper Cronk a life member after two title wins. If Williams delivers another title, Politis will have to do that and more.
Politis worked around the clock to bring SBW back and believes Williams will work for the Roosters once he finishes playing. He hasn’t left anything to chance regarding Williams’ cameo, sourcing everything from halal meat to a gym for the star’s quarantine stay.
The Bulldogs are desperate to reboot the club and know Williams would be beneficial for their culture and maybe even their on-field chances.
"I've never come across a more impressive leader and as we try and establish our culture and recapture the 'family club' feeling, Sonny would be a huge asset," Laundy said.
Meanwhile, SBW is treating his quarantine seriously.
Sonny Bill Williams arrived in Sydney on Thursday evening and headed straight for hotel quarantine.Credit:Getty
He was required to sign a document to be sent to the Rugby Football League — the governing body for league in the UK — to acknowledge his twin-contract situation with the Roosters and Toronto Wolfpack. The document was delivered to Williams and he had to wear a pair of gloves when signing it. SBW and his entire family were tested for COVID-19 prior to travelling to Australia and got the all clear.
Trouble in paradise as northern fans desert game
The decline of the three Queensland teams has left the NRL with unattractive games, dwindling ratings and a real threat to its next round of TV rights negotiations.
The NRL was quick to trumpet its record ratings of more than 1.3 million viewers when it returned from the COVID-19 break. However, it was that match, when Parramatta thumped the Broncos, that sounded the first alarm bells about the quality of the Queensland teams. The Broncos have never recovered and are now more likely to collect the wooden spoon than the premiership.
The Titans showed some pluck against the Roosters on Saturday but it hasn’t been a vintage season for the Queensland clubs.Credit:Getty
The Cowboys and Titans are also firmly entrenched in the bottom half of the table. Last Sunday, Nine featured the Titans taking on high-flying Penrith in the prime 4pm slot. It attracted the same number of viewers in Brisbane as Bachelor in Paradise.
The NRL argues subscription television viewing numbers are up, but it already has a new TV deal in place with Foxtel until 2027. Foxtel’s viewing numbers are actually down about 8per cent this year. Fox Sports is now including its Kayo numbers – its online streaming service – in its total viewing figures, which it didn’t do last year, and comparing it to this year. Expect the spin doctors at Fox to dispute this and then attack Nine.
It is the free-to-air TV rights that head office needs to secure long term, with Nine only signed up until 2022.
The new six-again rule has successfully reduced the wrestle and made the game more attractive. But it has also widened the gap between the top and bottom teams, leading to more blowouts. And blowouts are poison to TV stations as they give viewers an excuse to switch off early.
No one can make the Queensland teams strong overnight, but the NRL can ditch its policy of allocating all television games at the start of the season when no one knows which teams are going to fire. The obvious solution is to return to the practice of determining the TV games six weeks in advance. It would ensure fans see the best games each week.
‘‘Flexibility’’ is the new buzz word at the NRL – it has been used to bend the rules to allow Williams to return – yet the broadcast schedule is inflexible and robs fans of the best games.
Rugby league Immortal and Titans boss Mal Meninga sees a bit of himself in the Gold Coast-bound David Fifita.Credit:NRL Photos
David and Goliath
Gold Coast’s Mal Meninga admits he sees a bit of himself in star signing David Fifita.
‘‘It’s why I signed him,’’ he joked. ‘‘He is probably a bit heavier than I was at that age. Physically we are similar though. If I played at this time I think I would have been a back-rower and maybe playing in a similar fashion to David. He is a very impressive young man and I can’t emphasise how important his signing is.’’
Meninga also addressed a rumour that the club was chasing, or had signed, Cameron Smith.
‘‘Not true,’’ he said. ‘‘We have not gone down that path and to say a promise of Smith playing at our club helped get David over the line is not right. I really can’t see Cameron playing anywhere but Melbourne.’’
Phil the heat
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has long been viewed as a News Corp man, which makes his decision to back and stick with Phil Gould a significant act of corporate bravery. Anyone who backs Gould usually ends up being mauled by News’ attack dogs and V’landys is getting his first taste of that.
It’s been a big week for Gould. He has put in his accreditation application to become a player manager as he keeps his options open and critics guessing.
Gould has a range of career options available to him and a consultancy role with the NRL to work on player pathways is something he has discussed at length with V’landys. Gould helped make Penrith a production line for quality young players and his systems and keen eye are being sought to help develop talent in Australia and New Zealand. There are also NRL clubs chasing him.
All of this has his enemies saying he has a conflict of interest because he is the star analyst for Nine – the owners of this masthead – on TV, in print and on podcasts. But jobs in many areas of the game is far from unusual.
Here are some side jobs held by News Corp employees: Ben Ikin is a Fox Sports commentator and QRL board member; Kevin Walters is a Fox commentator and the Queensland Origin coach; Mal Meninga is on Fox, is Kangaroos coach and the head of culture for the Gold Coast; Braith Anasta is a Fox analyst and a player manager; Michael Ennis is on Fox and is a Raiders assistant coach; Greg Alexander is a Fox commentator, Panthers board member and NSW coaching director; Sam Burgess is a Fox analyst and an assistant at South Sydney; Corey Parker is on Fox and an assistant at the Broncos. I could go on.
Will Chambers could soon be back in the code that made him. The former Kangaroos centre is back home in Victoria after a short stint in Japanese rugby. Don’t be surprised if he returns to the NRL.
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