Chris Rattue 's Opinion

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

Chris Rattue: Sonny Bill's lust for life an inspiration

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The Sonny Bill Williams way makes more and more sense to me. A bit of this. A drop of that. Variety is the spice of life.

If Sonny Bill does announce today that he is heading off for the next great adventure, I wish him all the best. You are only young , or relatively young, once.

The world is his oyster; an oyster largely designed by the free thinking of his management and SBW's enthusiasm to take life on from many different angles.

It has taken a bit of getting used to, but his lack of restraint, the refusal to be bowed by constraint, is actually an inspiration in many ways.

Which doesn't excuse what he did at the Canterbury Bulldogs, where - thanks to the presence of a new manager - he not only quit on a contract early, but walked out on his club team midway through the season. In that case, a spirit of adventure floated into a sea of narcissism.

Yes, he was a young man who had made the unwise choice of signing an overly long contract, but he should have seen that season out and visited the club's head office after that.

Any future football employers and fans might also be wary of the distracted version of SBW, the one which will claim that boxing makes him a better player. He doesn't do himself, the footballer, any justice in that mode.

The All Blacks' reluctance to use him in the World Cup final, with the test-weary starters flagging, told the story of a player who - while physically prepared - had failed to build the instincts, to grasp the game's nuances. He has become a way better rugby player by putting both his head and the gloves down, although that won't last for long no doubt.

There is another side to the equation. As you reach middle age and find life zooming by - and boy, does it zoom by - what often stands out from the past are the opportunities missed.

They are gone, those moments in time, forever. Fear of some sort, whether it be rejection or failure or a lack of security, is often at the heart of the decision at the time. The result: people get beaten down, typecast, even destroyed by years of repetitive actions, although not necessarily so, of course.

Expectations and obligations are not to be sneezed at, but the extent to which convention, conservatism and social control grip many of our lives only becomes obvious in hindsight. The shackles are there all right, but we just don't see them at the time.

SBW's willingness to write his own rules could even be identified as a contributor to the unique way he plays rugby union and league, a free-passing style that has graced both games.

So each to his own. There are adventures to be had in life, and SBW is having them. If he does head for Japanese rugby and then the NRL Roosters, he leaves a never-to-be-forgotten legacy in publicity and attention alone, and also in the way that rugby can be played.

Sonny Bill has opened a few horizons and the game is the better for that. He has also been central to an amazing turnaround at the Chiefs.

Maybe he'll be back for the next World Cup, and the SBW rugby roadshow will swing into action again. I love watching Sonny Bill Williams play either code, and will continue to do so if and when he reappears in the NRL (and perhaps the Kiwis). Should his departure from New Zealand rugby be not only imminent but also permanent, he will be sorely missed.

Yet life is there to be taken by the scruff of the neck. From this distance, SBW is having a ball.

And why not?

- 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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