Chris Rattue 's Opinion

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue: Lure SBW back with Olympic promise

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Photo / Getty Images.
Photo / Getty Images.

Here's a gilt-edged way to ensure that Sonny Bill Williams returns to the New Zealand rugby fold - guarantee him a place in the 2016 Olympic sevens team.

It is now almost universally accepted that SBW is not only the best second five-eighths in world rugby, but an unstoppable matchwinner at his best.

He certainly looked that way against Australia at Eden Park. His stonking display included flying over the top of Berrick Barnes and Quade Cooper in a move they could see coming yet were powerless to stop, and a rampant second-half opening that turned Aussie to dust. His running power now matches his passing genius, he hits hard in defence and even has a reasonable line in grubber kicks.

SBW has quite suddenly become a critical component of the most important thing in world rugby - winning the World Cup. The NZRU would move heaven and earth to get him back, for his on-field ability and the attention he brings the game. I reckon all they have to do is dangle a gold medal in front of him to ensure his return.

SBW is saying all the right things about rugby right now, but once he gets back to Sydney life, his views will easily change. If he does waver, the Olympics are the perfect answer.

There may need to be some jiggery-pokery. Publicly, he would be told that the Olympics are well within his grasp. Privately, he would hear that his selection is all but certain.

I haven't got a clue if SBW is good enough to play the highest-level sevens. But that doesn't matter. There would be plenty of room in the squad and he'd certainly be good enough for most opponents. SBW's ability to demand the attention of multiple tacklers and still get an offload away would cause carnage.

If it's good enough for sevens coach Gordon Tietjens to go chasing Shaun Johnson, who is struggling for the Warriors, surely it is good enough to use the 2016 Olympics to ensure that Williams returns to union after his next stint in league.

Winning the 2015 World Cup is still more important to New Zealand rugby than the Olympic caper and professional sport is all about doing whatever it takes to bring home the bacon.

Williams is a man who loves the buffet of life and he'd find Rio irresistible. He would add a lustre and interest to the Olympic campaign. What's the bet his crafty manager Khoder Nasser has considered that already.

Luck deserves better than thisWhatever the points table says, the Warriors will finish the season as the worst team by far in the NRL.

They were disgracefully disorganised and gutless against the Dragons on Saturday at the beautiful Illawarra ground. The Dragons, a poor attacking team, were allowed to run riot and almost unopposed at times. The 32-point defeat would have been even heavier if Jamie Soward was on his game.

When a team is playing that badly, it becomes hard to identify the real culprits from the outside. But if a high-class, ruthless coach like Craig Bellamy comes in, careers will be on the line.

Here's something that hurts about what has happened - the chances are that Micheal Luck will finish his career in an ugly defeat against the finals-contending Canberra Raiders at Mt Smart Stadium on Sunday.

Luck has been a truly magnificent player for the Warriors. Professional sportsmen do not come any tougher or more genuine. The temptation is to exhort his club mates to allow him a dignified exit, but I fear the problems run so deep there is no chance of that.

There will be talk about giving Luck, James Maloney and Lewis Brown decent sendoffs. They will only be words.

The Warriors should pay their fans to attend the final match at Mt Smart as a gimmick-apology for such a rotten season. The last four performances have been utterly shameful - any lengthy continuation of such disasters would threaten the club's very existence. Maverick new owner Owen Glenn could win a bit of kudos and publicity by offering $5 to anyone who turns up on the final day. I don't reckon the gesture would cost him all that much.

A cut above the restThe English soccer premiership has roared into life with typical intrigue, and included a stunning goal from wonder signing Robin van Persie on his debut for Manchester United.

Life just isn't the same when the premiership is between seasons.

Why is it that some players just can't stay out of the headlines - the huge gash opened up on Wayne Rooney's leg is one of the ugliest things you will ever see in sport.

After a surprising opening-round defeat to Everton, Manchester United are on the board. But the world's most famous sports team still looked vulnerable against Fulham.

- NZ Herald

Chris Rattue

Chris Rattue is a sports columnist for the New Zealand Herald.

Chris Rattue writes about a wide range of sports for the New Zealand Herald. He has covered numerous sporting events for the Herald including Rugby World Cups and the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

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