Michael Burgess ' Opinion

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: Show pony bucks those naysayers

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Owen Glenn's SBW comments now look off the mark. Photo / Getty Images
Owen Glenn's SBW comments now look off the mark. Photo / Getty Images

Sir Owen Glenn owes Sonny Bill Williams an apology.

During his long business career, it probably hasn't been a common occurrence but it's about time Glenn doffs his hat in the direction of Williams. "I was wrong, Sonny," he needs to say. "I was very wrong."

At a press conference in March 2012, the Warriors co-owner recounted a conversation between he and Eric Watson where they had discussed Williams, then apparently a free agent and on his way back to the NRL.

"[Eric] said no and I said no," Glenn explained to the assembled media. "Let them have the show pony. He's not a bad player; he's a bloody good player. But you'd be looking over your shoulder all day.

Glenn's show pony comment was half in jest and needs to be taken in context. It was made at the time when boxing had threatened to overshadow Williams' rugby career and his romance with Jaime Ridge was dominating headlines.

But the implication was clear - Williams was all hype and a haircut.

However, Glenn couldn't have been more wrong. This guy attracts a media circus but he ain't no clown.

Despite a limited pre-season, Williams has been an extraordinary performer for the Roosters. Even with the microscope and extra attention, he has made things happen in almost every game. After a conservative start to the season, he has become more willing to try things, whether it is the trademark offload in traffic or a long spiral cut-out pass.

Williams has played more minutes than any other Roosters forward and has contributed six tries, eight line breaks and more than 100 running metres per game. He is also averaging 26 tackles and 11 hit-ups a match.

Insiders also say Williams has been one of the biggest drivers of change to the culture at the Roosters, who, let's remember, finished 13th in 2012 and were a mess the season before.

Williams is one of the first to arrive at training and the last to leave, setting a standard for professionalism. It was a similar story at the Chiefs and even during his time in Japan. Injury blighted his short-term stay with the Panasonic Wild Knights but he didn't stop turning up.

He continued to train every day and when the Herald on Sunday visited, he was doing an hour's extra rehabilitation with the club physiotherapist, while most of the rest of the team had long finished.

At the game the following weekend, he spent an hour signing autographs after the match, standing outside in the chilly winter temperatures. It wasn't something he had to do - but he saw it as part of his professional obligations.

He doesn't get caught up in boozy incidents off the field, nor is he constantly seen out and about at celebrity filled functions. In short, he's a model professional.

Ironically, Williams is just the kind of 'show pony' the Warriors need. Sure, it would have been hard to prise him away from the Roosters but he may have welcomed a move away from Sydney. He would be a perfect fit inside the current Warriors team and would probably cost less than Sam Tomkins, which may in time be considered a masterstroke but at the moment seems an unusual piece of business, given the club's current fullback stocks.

- Herald on Sunday

Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

Read more by Michael Burgess

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