Trent Robinson has come out in support of letting Sonny Bill Williams box in the off-season, especially if it keeps him in the game.
Robbo makes some valid points but what is missing from this is the risk Sonny Bill is taking — and if he’s prepared to take it, then more power to him.
According to an article on NRL.com:
“Yeah, I’d have no problem with it,” Robinson told Triple M. “I was pretty cool with it last time. I was happy with his prep, I talked to him every week, and I know what kind of guy he is.
“If a guy wants to go and earn some money in another sport for a short period of time in the off-season, I’m OK with that.
“I know he’s preparing well and he’s a professional. I think to keep him in our sport… you say ‘no’ and he has to go to another code to do it – it’s only their gain. It’s our loss.”
What his comments fail to point out is that players simply can’t be allowed to play other sports in the offseason. Contracted players being allowed to play other sports, in other countries, as they stand to rob the teams that have contracted them to long-term deals of a valuable asset and potentially any chance of contending the next season.
But that only applies if the player is contracted for the seasons before and after the offseason in question. That’s an important distinction, and allow this writer to explain.
SBW and his agent, Khoder Nasser, work on one-year deals so as to enable off-season pursuits like this. The risk comes in with the lack of security that is afforded a contract to players who are signed for longer than a season at a time.
If SBW ruptures an ACL, he recovers without club-funded rehab the next year and loses the hope of making any money the following season, while also losing the monetary gains who could garner from boxing in the offseason.
Compare this to someone like a Benji Marshall, who last offseason floated the idea of playing Japanese rugby as well despite being contracted to the Tigers for the following year. He was not allowed to play because the Tigers stood to lose huge if he ruptured his achilles. The Tigers would not only lose a star, but they’d have to pay his contract anyway and lose a player who took up a large portion of their salary cap — space that could not be made up for with an extra signing or to.
Benji Marshall not being allowed to play rugby in the off-season is NOT the same as SBW being allowed to do the same. As far as the NRL, its fans and salary cap auditor be concerned, Sonny Bill is off contract and stands to lose huge if he suffers a career-threatening injury — but the risk is all his. The Roosters would be off the hook for paying his contract and would not face the same burdens that, say, they are facing now with someone like Tautau Moga, who is contracted beyond this year and the Roosters have managed just one Holden Cup game this year wedged between two ACL injuries.
Really, the debate is that simple. Let the dude box.
If it keeps a genuine superstar in the game, then the allowance is more than worth it. And Souffs fans, if Sam Burgess wanted to I’d support it too if he was on a one-year deal. If it keeps the genuine stars in the game — and allows athletes with a 10-year shelf life in professional sports to earn money on top.
But the main reason we should allow it is because the risk is entirely on Sonny Bill Williams. He’s backing his ability and trusting his body to provide the security, rather than the guaranteed terms and conditions of a contract. Let him take the risk if he wants to, because it’s his body to risk.