I hate to say it — I don’t really want to bring it up in actually — but the Roosters game this Sunday versus the Titans could very well be Sonny Bill Williams’ last regular season game at Allianz Stadium in the Tricolours.
Now, nothing has been confirmed either way. Rugby League Week’s The Mole reported that he’ll be at Bondi next year in this week’s issue, while Dean Ritchie quoted sources a while back claiming another deal had been agreed to.
But the Waikato Chiefs have offered him a three year deal and I’ve heard rumours he could actually be headed to the Auckland Blues with Benji Marshall. I’d like to err on the side that he’ll be back next year, but to be honest there have been so many stories both ways it’s impossible to tell up from down.
This writer personally believes he’ll stick around for another year. He’s built up a strong rapport with the Roosters players — especially the New Zealand contingent — and the Rugby World Cup is in 2015, giving him another year in league before he has to commit to go back.
But who knows? I hate speculating, especially when nothing is official.
But it would be remiss of this website not to show some of the best Sonny Bill Williams highlights at Allianz this year if it is indeed the last time we see him in a regular season match. And as you’ll see, it’s already been quite a ride.
(If he stays, just use this article for what it is: a sweet trip down recent memory lane with some dodgy gifs.)
Without further ado, here are the top five Sonny Bill Williams moments this year at Allianz Stadium.
5. The world’s biggest five-eighth, vs Manly, Round 16
This was Sonny Bill’s second outing at five-eighth following a solid showing in the role against the Bulldogs away from home in the absence of James Maloney. Roosters fans went in full of confidence following the one-game experiment that they could beat former bogey side Manly without their regular stand-off and goal-kicker.
They were right.
Sonny Bill stepped up and had a line-break which was eventually a bombed try, before he had the defence in two minds and sealed the game with this play:
At any point in the play he could have thrown the cutout, as most players would, but that would mean Tupou could have been run down and taken into touch. Instead, SBW drew David Williams which left Jenko wide open. Just a beautiful play that only Sonny Bill could pull off in the NRL at the moment.
It reminded this writer of the pass Bryan Fletcher threw for Brett Mullins in the 2002 Grand Final when he drew the winger, held off and sent the winger away for Shannon Hegarty’s try to open the club’s first premiership victory since 1975.
4. Power, speed and pride, vs Penrith, Round Eight
This was against a team that was struggling at the time, but the Roosters had conceded an early try and Sonny had just made an error. The Roosters got the ball back for some reason, and Sonny got the ball from a standing start, or what Tony Williams calls “a start”. He then did this, somehow:
The sheer explosion he showed off flat feet, followed by the ability to beat four players and barely keep the ball from touching the ground before promoting it is impossible — repeat, IMPOSSIBLE — for any other player to score.
But more than that, it showed the pride this guy has in his work. He made an error and wanted to make up for it straight away. It was a show of strength, athleticism, skill, explosiveness and — most importantly — leadership.
What a play.
3. Old-school, one-of-a-kind Sonny, vs Dragons, Anzac Day, Round Seven
Sonny Bill didn’t need to dominate in this game; he left that role to Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Boyd Cordner. All he had to do was delight the sell-out crowd with one magical play. Mission accomplished:
This was the Sonny Bill we expected when it was first announced he’d signed with the Roosters. He was famous for being able to throw any offload, and do it with remarkable accuracy. But he did it on a special day in front of the biggest crowd in Roosters’ regular season home history.
People can offload, but no-one can do it so accurately and so spectacularly at any moment. He’s selective with it these days but when it’s on, it’s over.
This is what we expected from him when he signed. We didn’t expect what he did three rounds earlier.
2. The cutout, vs Parramatta Eels, Round Four.
Prior to this, Sonny had already put in his most dominant 40 minutes since returning to the code.
In the first half alone he had three offloads, a line break assist, a try and 13 tackles — but really the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
He channelled his inner Freddy on almost every touch, his offloads created attacking raids following the carnage in trying to get him down and led almost directly to two tries. He sent Shaun Kenny-Dowall away on the right side and scored a try off a Mitchell Pearce tap-back on the left wing.
But then he came out for the second half and did something no-one saw coming:
Sonny Bill showed in one pass that players can learn a few things in the 15-man code. Before he left for rugby he was a ball runner with a lethal offload; he never had a cutout that reminded this writer of Brad Fittler.
Granted, he did this against the hapless Eels in a 50-0 blowout. But everyone who watched that game stood up and went “whoa”. It was a pass Andrew Johns called “an act of genius” on Triple M, and it announced to the NRL world he was back, and better than ever.
He would confirm that without a doubt two rounds later.
1. The return, vs Canterbury-Bankstown, Round Six
This was the game Bulldogs fans had been waiting for since Sonny Bill Williams put pen to paper with the Roosters in November 2012. It was five years in the making, and the Roosters and the NRL took the unprecedented step of separating the fan bases, such was the undercurrent of hatred towards Sonny from his former fans.
This was the most hyped game of the season at the time given everything that had been said in the five years prior: the $750,000 SBW had to pay from his own pocket to escape his contract, the “we haven’t forgotten” banners from Dogs fans who paid to attend the Roosters-Bunnies game in Round One just to protest, and the perceived slight SBW gave to those fans.
They didn’t care why he left. It didn’t matter that the booze culture at the time was detrimental to his career; Bulldogs fans did not give a single ounce of fuck. They wanted blood.
Sonny instead gave them this. There’s three highlights. I cheated. So what:
This cutout came right in front of the bay of Bulldogs fans, and the boos, funnily enough, ceased. But Sonny wasn’t done there. He then opened up the scoring in the second half and gave a fan a dap:
…before he finished them off with this powerhouse try through three defenders:
To be able to thrive under that pressure of expectation, with everyone ready to launch into you if you don’t perform is something that is truly under-appreciated. He dominated this game from the outset and played his best game of the season in the most hyped game of the year, by far.
This is why fans need to get out to Allianz Stadium on Sunday. This has been five moments (technically eight moments really) from five different games, and we have seen a season full of moments like this. If this is his last game — and 26 Rounds really has no idea — then this is the one game you have to get to.
He’s keen to atone from a loss, and we’ve seen in these highlights how SBW bounces back with pride. He’ll do something again this weekend, and what better way to celebrate Father’s Day than treating dad to a moment of unique individual excellence.
Note: The Roosters are making it easy for anyone to attend: According to their website, the Roosters are offering:
• Free entry to the game for kids aged 16 and under
• 2 for the price of 1 on all General Admission tickets
• 1 free General Admission ticket to all Sydney Roosters 2013 Members
Pre-purchased tickets start from just $25 and are available at ticketek.com.au or can be purchased on the day from $30 and with these fantastic offers a family of 4 can attend for just $30.