Sonny Bill Williams’ return is another step closer with the ARL Commission open to considering exemptions for players to hold NRL and English Super League contracts at the same time. Under current rules players cannot be contracted to two clubs, and nor can they be loaned from the ESL to NRL clubs.
That means Williams would have to terminate his $5 million deal with the Toronto Wolfpack for 2021 to return to the NRL.
However chairman Peter V’landys told AAP on Sunday the ARLC would consider exemptions given the exceptional circumstances, after the Wolfpack pulled out of this year’s ESL due to COVID-19 constraints.
If approved, it would open the door for dual international Williams to return to the Sydney Roosters to boost their bid for a third consecutive title, while several other ex-NRL players could sign with clubs without risking the deals they already have for next year.
“We said right at the beginning of the season that we are going to stay agile to confront any challenge put before us,” V’landys said.
“That was for other purposes than this.
“Logically the commission will look at all rules that give flexibility and everything will be judged on its merits.
“We want as many players to come back as possible. You’ve got the Warriors at the moment who are a few players short. It’s not just about Sonny Bill.”
The move could allow the Warriors to acquire the likes of Ricky Leutele and Darcy Lussick, once the two Australians undergo two weeks in quarantine.
Other injury-hit clubs could also possibly consider some of the Wolfpack’s best.
Williams tweeted on Friday night that he was leaving his Manchester base, and was ready for two weeks in quarantine.
He is expected to receive permission from border authorities to arrive in the country for work, aided by the fact his wife is an Australian citizen.
The Roosters have released winger Asu Kepaoa, creating further room in their roster.
But cap space will not be an issue given they already had room and Williams’ deal will be for just three months.
He is not expected to play before round 15, given he will need to train after leaving quarantine.
V’landys admitted in a perfect world he would like Williams to head to the Warriors given their predicament. But he said any return to the NRL would be good for the game.
“We see it as a good thing as he is a brand,” V’landys said. “He has a presence and charisma and brings in casual viewers to our game, which we need.
“Because they are the ones who determine how much revenue we get from broadcasters.
“You’ve got to take away your bias towards teams. You’ve got to look at it in the total interest of the game, the game as a whole.
“It doesn’t matter what club he goes to from my perspective. He’s an asset in rugby league to promote itself.
“And our job as a commission is to promote the game of rugby league.”
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