The SBW show rolls into town

By Michael Brown

Sonny Bill Williams of the Roosters. Photo / Getty Images.
Sonny Bill Williams of the Roosters. Photo / Getty Images.

One of the main things Sonny Bill Williams craves is to "go about his business" as a returning rugby league player but it's an impossible goal when you're arguably the most famous sportsman in Australasia.

The 27-year-old's return to the game five years after walking out on the Bulldogs has dominated pre-season talk and his pre-recorded thoughts transmitted on Channel 9 during the NRL season opener between the Roosters and Rabbitohs became the most-talked about aspect of the opening weekend.

It polarised opinion, in much the same way Williams seems to have done throughout his professional sporting career, and left the second-rower a little perplexed.

"That was the only media I did [that week]," he told a large media contingent after Roosters training at North Harbour Stadium today. "I tried to stay away from it all. I guess I was just doing what I was told to do and it all got blown out of proportion - as they do on that side of the ditch.

"I have just gone about my business. I haven't really done any media. This is probably my first big one since I came back. Everything I seem to say gets blown out of proportion. I just go about my business and that's what I will do at Eden Park this week."

Business should be good for the Warriors this weekend. Brand SBW is strong, and everyone looks to cash in, and the Warriors expect to attract upwards of 30,000 at Eden Park even though they were embarrassed 40-10 in their first game of the season against Parramatta.

Most want to see Williams, and discover if he can recapture the sort of form that made him a phenomenon in his Bulldogs days and then as an All Black. Some want to see him fail, but most are just curious.

For many Roosters, Williams is the perfect teammate not only for what he might be able to do on the field.

"It's beautiful," five-eighth and former Warrior James Maloney said. "We all fly under the radar. It's sensational. It's part and parcel for him. He draws a crowd wherever he goes and that's the bloke he is. It's great having him on our side. I would rather be playing with him than against him."

Williams, who scored a try in 51 workmanlike minutes last weekend, is trying to ease his way back into the game. He certainly doesn't think he's found his groove yet, although he has been promoted to the starting lineup to tackle the Warriors.

"It's still taking time to get there, I think," he said. "It will take me a few weeks yet to feel fully comfortable. It's been five years out of the game and I've come back from injury as well. I just want to do the basics well and concentrate on my preparation rather than what is going on off the field.

"Coming from playing a high level with the Chiefs and the All Blacks, everyone is looking for that magical play but, for me, it's about doing my core skills as good as I can. When I keep it simple, big plays usually come off.

"Being back in the forwards is probably the biggest thing I have to get used to, whereas before [in rugby] I was out with the pretty boys kicking stones out wide. It's going to take me a while but it's a long year."

The Warriors and Roosters find themselves in similar situations. Not only were both beaten in their opening games, but they are also under new coaches in rebuilding phases.

The Warriors are likely to be without utility Ben Henry, who suffered a recurrence of an ankle injury that interrupted his pre-season, and a lot of their week has been spent on ensuring they show a lot more fight than they did against the Eels.

If they don't, Williams might go about his business a little too well.

- APNZ

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