Sonny Bill Williams In Words
It’s official: the Sonny Bill Effect is coming to Toronto.
Throughout a career competing at the highest levels of a staggering number of professional sports, Sonny Bill Williams has been a driving force for positive change everywhere he has played. In the aftermath of the Sydney Roosters 2013 NRL Premiership triumph, captain and 300-game veteran Luke Ricketson spoke of the aura surrounding the New Zealand born giant.
‘What’s the Sonny Bill Effect? Without doubt, he’s been a giant of the Club. There’s the athletic ability and the consummate professionalism. He works as hard on his preparation as any player I’ve ever seen. Of course he’s a natural, but there’s a lot of hard work that goes into making it so natural. He’s the modern-day sportsman. He’s helped turn us into a modern-day club. The influence of Sonny Bill? We’re talking about an icon of our sport and this club. Everything he does has an impact.’
From an early age, it was clear that Sonny Bill was going to be something extremely special, but no one could have predicted just how influential he would be in the sporting world. Williams’ trophy cabinet is home to two NRL Premierships, two Rugby Union World Cup medals, three Bledisloe Cup medals, a Super Rugby title, a Rugby Sevens title, an International Player of the Year Award, multiple heavyweight boxing titles and much more.
While perhaps the full extent of the success Williams was destined to achieve could not be fathomed early on, Canterbury Bulldogs Talent Scout John Ackland certainly had a feeling he was onto something when he saw a raw 18 year old in 2004.
‘He’s one of the most exciting talents I’ve ever seen and, just as important, he seems to have the temperament to handle it.’
New Zealand international Rugby League Head Coach Frank Endacott went even further with his praise of Sonny Bill at the same time.
‘If he was a racehorse, you’d already be lining him up for the Arc de Triomphe. It can be dangerous to say this about someone so young, but I can tell you he’s going to be something very special. Players like him come along once every 10 or 15 years, if that.’
William’s maiden foray into Rugby Union brought continued success at the runaway-train pace his career was becoming known for. Making the code-switch in 2008 to play with French Club Toulon, he showed his worth both on and off the field, eventually seeing the in-demand athlete returning to New Zealand to play in the Super Rugby competition. Within a year he was selected to play for the All Blacks in their successful 2011 Rugby World Cup campaign, becoming only the second person to represent New Zealand at the highest level of both Rugby League and Rugby Union.
Since then, Williams has been a part of two more Rugby World Cup campaigns, won a Super Rugby title with the Chiefs, returned to Rugby League and won a Premiership with the Roosters, crossed-codes again to play in the 2016 Rugby Sevens tournament and built an undefeated boxing career. What has become increasingly clear in this time is that the ‘Sonny Bill Effect’ that Luke Ricketson mentioned in 2013 is about much more than what happens on-field.
When the Chiefs signed Williams in 2012, Head Coach Dave Rennie made it clear that it was not just the on-field impact he wanted from the sporting journeyman but that his off-field attitude was equally as important.
‘We’re rapt. We made no secret that we were keen to get Sonny in a Chiefs jersey. He’s not only a quality player but adds huge value to our environment off the field. He’s the smartest on the uptake that I have encountered.’
Long-time All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen was also upfront when asked about what it is that Williams brings to a team on the training track.
‘I’ve never coached a more professional footy player in attitude.’
In what is already an incredibly exciting time for the Toronto Wolfpack, the signing of Sonny Bill Williams is set to send anticipation of the Club’s 2020 Super League Season into over drive. One of the most recognizable sporting stars on the planet, Williams will bring professionalism, positivity and of course unparalleled talent to Toronto.
Former Roosters teammate Jared Waerea-Hargreaves summed up the Sonny Bill Effect perfectly when asked about what it is that makes Williams so respected.
‘He wants to be a true professional athlete. He lives and breathes it. He knows what he has to do on the field. He knows how he wants to be off the field. He’s true to all of it. You have no idea how hard he’s worked. No one else I know has put in as much effort as Son.’
As the Wolfpack take the next step in their historic journey, the addition of Sonny Bill Williams to an already strong squad is bound to create improvement both on and off the field. The Sonny Bill Effect is coming to the Wolfpack and it won’t just be the Club that benefits, it will be the City of Toronto.
Former New Zealand Rugby League Player and Coach Dean Bell said it best:
‘It’s not the sort of name you forget, is it?’