Sonny Bill Williams is essentially peerless as a second-rower, and the statistics back it up.
According to an excellent article published in the Sydney Morning Herald on Friday:
In his 15 matches since returning from a successful five-year stint in rugby, Williams leads the statistics for running forwards (not including hookers) in almost every main category except kicking and errors made. Not only does he have a high workrate but his efforts with the ball are of a higher quality than any other forward averaging more than 15 touches a game.
Williams, who averages 15.7 touches a game, is the NRL’s No.1 back-rower for:
❏ Tries – six (equal with Brisbane’s Matt Gillett);
❏ Try assists – five (with the Warriors’ Feleti Mateo);
❏ Line breaks – nine (with South Sydney’s Sam Burgess); and,
❏ Line-break assists – nine (the next highest is five).
He is also fourth overall for offloads (33), behind Brisbane’s Corey Parker (42) and Mateo (41) and Trent Merrin (34).
However, Williams offloads more regularly when he has the ball than any other leading forward (more than 15 a game) and he also scores tries, sets up tries, makes breaks and creates breaks for teammates with greater frequency.
Williams scores once every 39.2 touches, sets up a try every 47 touches, busts the defensive line every 26.1 touches, creates a break for a teammate every 26.1 touches and offloads every 7.1 touches. While the likes of Mateo, Burgess, Canterbury’s Frank Pritchard and Canberra’s Josh Papalii are close in some categories (see table), they fall away in others.
For example, Mateo makes a line break every 147.5 touches, Burgess hasn’t produced a try assist this season, Pritchard offloads every 30.3 touches and Papalii scores once every 187 touches.
If the rumours from the Daily Telegraph are true and the Roosters have all but signed him to a $1m contract for another year, these statistics show that he is worth it on the field.
Off the field? He’s probably worth even more to the club.
According to the same article written by Brad Walter of the Herald, the Roosters have seen their crowd average jump from just over 12,000 in 2012 to over 20,000 in 2013. He has yet to miss a game and the Roosters have not had a crowd this season fewer than 11,000.
Memberships are also up to 13,751 at time of writing, while the club can expect its sponsors to be happy after securing three Friday night games in the last six rounds of the competition.
At training, he’s converted Mitchell Pearce from shagging Playboy bunnies to sipping herbal tea (although this writer doubts that’s a good thing) and he is one of the hardest-training athletes in the world, let alone rugby league.
He has had a dramatic influence on the club and its fans, while rehabbing his image as a selfish mercenary into a team-first superstar.
And while a lot of effort has gone into growing crowd numbers and memberships from the marketing team at the Roosters and COO Ted Helliar, having a player like Sonny Bill Williams certainly helps the cause.