8 Nov 2019

SBW confirms move to Toronto

5:13 pm on 8 November 2019

Sonny Bill Williams has confirmed he has signed a two-year deal with the Toronto Wolfpack rugby league team.

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams Photo: Photosport

The Wolfpack, a club owned by Australian mining tycoon David Argyle, have made Williams one of their two permitted marquee players on a deal believed to be worth $10 million.

His marquee status means that only the first $300,000 of his salary will count towards the club's salary cap.

Williams' signature comes on the back of the Wolfpack's biggest year in the team's very short history, one that saw the Wolfpack achieve their five-year goal of English Super League promotion two years early.

Williams is excited about the next stage of his career after finishing with the All Blacks following the World Cup.

"Toronto Wolfpack is a club that represents Toronto which is a very multicultural city," he said.

"The club has big ambitions and big goals. I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals. On the field I'd like to bring high quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team. Off the field I'd like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed.

"Super league will be a new challenge and one I'm looking forward to. It will be a new experience and one I'm ready to embrace."

The Wolfpack say Williams will join them after a period of rest and recovery from the World Cup. The Super League season starts in February.

Bob Hunter, Toronto Wolfpack chairman and chief executive said Williams would bring "incredible" excitement to the sport of rugby league in Canada.

"Having someone of his talent join the Wolfpack will greatly raise the profile of the club, and also help move the game forward globally. Sonny is a phenomenal athlete and we believe he is rugby's LeBron James and his addition to our league is comparable to when David Beckham joined LA Galaxy. "

Toronto Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott said: "We have signed one of the highest profile rugby players, if not sports stars in the world and he will enhance the world of rugby in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level."

Williams brings world-class pedigree - club vice-president

Jon Pallett, Toronto Wolfpack's vice-president commercial, said a significant package had been put together but he would not be confirming the sum involved was $10m.

He told Morning Report Williams was the club's marquee player, which meant he receives a salary over the club's team salary cap. Pallett said this system enabled a club to bring in a couple of star players.

Asked why the club wanted Williams, he said his appeal was twofold. He said one related to his playing ability and the other to his global brand.

"The thing that really excites us here on the Toronto side of the business and indeed in the UK as well where we do lots of commercial deals and partnerships and sponsorships ... the press release that's gone out today it talks about David Beckham and the deal to LA Galaxy in 2007, it talks about Le Bron James and the impact he has when he moves from team to team.

"There's very few players like this on the planet across all sport and the reason they're so desirable a signing is not only for what they can do on the field but also off the field - inspiring people to get into the game, bringing in a new fan base, bringing in commercial revenue in terms of tickets but also attracting big sponsors and partners that will plough money into the team as well."

While Pallett had no input into the coaching side, he believed Williams would play at centre.

Pallett said the club would not sign any player for whom there were any injury or form concerns and he was confident they were gaining a "world-class athlete".

A return to the Kiwis?

Earlier this week, New Zealand Rugby League confirmed they would welcome Williams back with open arms but said his form must be strong enough to force his way back into the team.

When asked today if he would be open to Williams' to return to international league with New Zealand, Kiwis coach Michael Maguire didn't rule it out but preferred to focus on tomorrow's Test against Great Britain.

"I've said a lot this week around that space I'm looking forward to tomorrow I think in time that will sort itself out.

"We've got a massive game for us tomorrow it's a really important one, we need to better than we were last week. It was a bounce of a ball that determined that game so we've got to be in an improved way tomorrow to make sure we get the win."

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