At first, Sonny Bill Williams was getting paid too much. Now, he’s not getting enough.
But ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys has conceded he is happy to do whatever it takes to get the cross-code superstar back into the NRL for one last time with the Sydney Roosters.
Williams was on a staggering two-year $10m contract at the Toronto Wolfpack, a European Super League club beset by financial disaster according to reports.
Now Williams is about to be valued at $400,000 a season by the NRL salary cap auditor, which translates to a cut price $150,000 given he will play a shortened season.
And as the Sydney Morning Herald notes, this is the perfect number, because surprise, surprise it equates to the remaining space in the Roosters’ salary cap.
But while rival clubs may be miffed at the way the Roosters, gunning for a third consecutive title, can fit SBW in with official help, V’landys is unashamedly unapologetic.
“None at all,” he replied, when asked if he had any qualms.
“The thing about the clubs at the moment is that we’re all united. We need to promote the game. And one thing Sonny Bill Williams does is promote the game.
“The more you promote the game, the better your revenue is. When you’re all united and stick together, everyone benefits.
“Bringing a brand like Sonny Bill Williams into our game will attract substantially more attention, which improves your ratings, which improves your revenue.”
Toronto Wolfpack owner David Argyle has released Williams on the condition he returns next year. And even if he doesn’t, the ARL Commission is expected to change its rules to ensure SBW can still play in the NRL this year.
That leaves the small matter of Williams putting pen to paper, plus the NRL getting permission for Williams to enter Australia under the Covid-19 rules.
His unique history and age makes it hard to put a true value on his playing ability under the salary cap regulations. But rugby league is nothing if not pragmatic, and the Roosters will be grateful for that.
Far from over-stocking their impressive squad, the Roosters could really do with him because their backrowers have been hit by injuries.
The champions have lost Victor Radley for the season, Angus Crichton is battling a knee problem, and Boyd Cordner suffered ahead knock at the captain’s run on Friday after a serious concussion in a match a few weeks ago.
They played poorly against an under-strength Raiders side in the previous round, and didn’t get close to top gear in a messy win over the struggling Warriors on Saturday night.
Bargain buy SBW – who is revered for his previous influence at the club – could provide the spark they desperately need, rather than being a luxury item.
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