Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: NZRU should call shots if SBW seeks contract again


The oil is that Sonny Bill Williams will play a spot of footy in the Land of the Rising Sun, then a season of league with the Roosters before thinking about a return to Super 15 rugby here in 2014.

If that is his plan, I hope the NZRU operates a much tougher policy before they give him a pass back into rugby.

From his first game with Canterbury and indecent promotion to the All Blacks six weeks later, Williams' time in rugby seems to have been a procession of debates about one-year contracts, their extensions and his next port of call.

However, he is now getting a real handle on rugby and this season, in his shift to the Chiefs, has shown further improvements which meant he was an automatic pick for the All Blacks. With the experience of 17 tests he is starting to make a real statement and difference.

His style has been a revelation, he has brought a new dimension to midfield back play with his array of offloads and imposing physical presence in the heavily congested areas of the field.

Williams has discovered the different timing and the variation in tempo he needs in rugby, aspects he could comprehend only after stacking up some experience. If he shoots through, we can muse about what another contract should involve if he wants to return to the game.

Sustained performances have marked the test work of Ma'a Nonu, Aaron Mauger and Walter Little as second five-eighths in recent years while Williams sits in a group alongside others like Luke McAlister who had fluctuating form charts. But Williams was only starting. He has come on as a sub or been replaced in half his tests and been used on the wing and also at centre.

Williams has been ironing out those kinks this season with the Chiefs.

So if he saunters off some time soon but then tries to return for the 2014 season, the NZRU must play hardball about their repeat investment.

At the very least they must insist Williams signs a two-year deal without any subsidiary clauses about boxing or sabbatical trips abroad.

Williams has been a vibrant part of the rugby scene, an entertainer and a quality player but if he wants to disappear then return, the NZRU cannot repeat the preferential treatment they offered when he signed on originally. If he wants to return to footy, it should be on the terms the NZRU delivers.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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