Sonny Bill Williams sent Toronto Wolfpack fans into a frenzy when he announced his signing with the Super League club last month.
However, the former All Blacks midfielder won’t be gracing them with his presence any time soon.
The rugby star signed a two-year deal with the Canada-based club to play in the UK Super League competition – a deal reportedly worth $10 million.
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Since then, Williams has been seen in just about every corner of the globe where rugby is played – except the home of his new team.
Wolfpack CEO and chairman Robert Hunter told Reuters that fans will need to be patient, with the star unlikely to make any appearance until their first home game scheduled for April 11.
“It is just very difficult with his travel schedule,” Hunter told Reuters. “He just finished the World Cup in Japan, he had been away almost six weeks from his family.
“We talked about it and decided not to do it. We may not see him here until April.”
The team, founded in 2016, play in a small venue in downtown Toronto that seats 10,000, averaged close to 7,500 fans a game. Yet their fan base is widely described as “loyal” and “hardcore”.
In the city where NHL Toronto Maple Leafs, NBA Raptors, MLB Toronto Blue Jays, MLS Toronto FC and Canadian Football League Argonauts all vie for the sporting dollar, Hunter said the Wolfpack had to buy their support, hinting to the massive contract offered to Williams.
“One of the goals is to build a brand in this marketplace. You’ve got to invest,” he said.
“We’re a small guy and we are just trying to keep our hand up so people know that we are there.”
Adding that rugby was still a niche sport in Canada, Hunter said Williams’ presence would be specifically beneficial at grassroots level.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Hunter. “We are also a niche sport, not well known, not a lot of play at the youth level but that is all part of the challenge.
“Right now we are working with the rugby clubs to get them down to games and getting Sonny Bill out when he gets here.
“You’ve got to start at the grassroots.”
Meanwhile, Williams is reportedly set to become the first $30 million man in rugby league and rugby union, according to a staggering breakdown of the former All Blacks star’s career earnings.
His contract with the Toronto Wolfpack already made him the highest-earning star in the history of the two rugby codes and it could push him towards total career earnings of $30 million, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Williams has squeezed more money out of his code-hopping career than anyone else before him, completely justifying his decision to walk out on the Canterbury Bulldogs and rugby league in 2008.
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