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Former cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams gives verdict on TJ Perenara's potential NRL move

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Getty Images for Harlequins)

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Former All Blacks and rugby league star Sonny Bill Williams has given his verdict on TJ Perenara’s potential move to the NRL.


Perenara’s playing future has been the subject of plenty of speculation in recent days following a shock report that the 69-test All Blacks halfback could make the switch to rugby league to join the Sydney Roosters in the NRL.

Roosters head coach Trent Robinson has since confirmed his club’s interest in the 29-year-old as he looks to fill the void left at hooker in the wake of veteran dummy half Jake Friend’s retirement.

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Having never played rugby league, the prospect of Perenara – who is on sabbatical with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan’s Top League and is off-contract with New Zealand Rugby this year – suiting up for the NRL glamour club took many by surprise.

However, Perenara’s former All Blacks teammate and two-time NRL champion Williams has joined a chorus of current and former union and league players who are backing the former Hurricanes captain to make a successful transition to league.

Unlike the majority of other supporters of Perenara’s potential switch, Williams is well-equipped to judge whether the halfback can succeed in league having enjoyed one of the most successful cross-code careers of all-time.

With 58 All Blacks caps, two World Cup titles, a Super Rugby championship and an appearance at the 2016 Rio Olympics to his name, Williams has also won NRL Premierships with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Sydney Roosters.


The 35-year-old also played 12 tests for the Kiwis and became the highest-paid athlete across both union and league in 2019 when he signed a two-year, $10 million deal with the Toronto Wolfpack in the Super League.

Now retired from both codes and focusing on both his professional boxing career and broadcast commitments in Australia, Williams told Channel Nine that Perenara’s family’s background in league could help him succeed in the 13-man code.

Perenara is a first cousin of former NRL player Marcus as well as current referee and former star Henry, while his father Thomas was a Junior Kiwi.

“What a special addition that would be,” Williams, who is now part of the Roosters’ backroom staff, told Nine.

“I know him personally and if he came over here he would be under no illusion the work that would need to be put in to be a successful rugby league player.

“He comes from a league background. I’ve talked to him at length about how much he loves rugby league and he would love to give it a crack one day. Most likely we will see him soon, hopefully.”

Williams added that Perenara could flourish as a hybrid player that can cover both hooker and in the halves in league.

“I would see him as a hybrid,” Williams said. “Initially as that No 14 player that can come on at hooker or play at No 6.

“The energy he brings to a team, his fitness, his strength physically – I think he would make a great rugby league player.”

Williams’ comments come after a raft of Perenara’s Hurricanes and All Blacks teammates, as well as former All Blacks and current rugby league stars, have thrown their support behind the scrumhalf’s possible cross-code move.


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