Sonny Bill Williams doesn't need an introduction in these parts. Let's get another old chestnut out of the way early too come to think of it: He, more than probably any other athlete in New Zealand, will never be able to please everyone.

Prepare to get back in the boxing ring again, and prepare to be criticised for not taking your rugby career seriously enough. Fight in an exhibition bout for homelessness in Australia and New Zealand, get criticised for not taking boxing seriously enough.

Welcome to Sonny's world. Like the late Jonah Lomu, Williams will probably never be appreciated as a rugby player in New Zealand for as long as he's playing.

Maybe that will change when he retires as it did for Jonah, but either way Williams says he doesn't care what people think about him anymore and, as he becomes increasingly active in his charitable activities and political awareness – which he will probably be criticised for – maybe it's time for more high-profile athletes in New Zealand to be a bit more like him.


Williams knows he won't be able to stop homelessness here or across the ditch, but he's prepared to try to ease the plight of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Most of us turn a blind eye to this increasing problem, but he's prepared put himself out there, as it were, and get in the ring with a 45-year-old Australian television personality by the name of Stu Laundy; to look like a "dickhead", as he told the Herald this week.

He's scheduled to do it on December 1, a week after the All Blacks' final test of the year (against Italy in Rome) and I for one applaud him for having the will and energy to do it.

Three weeks ago it was eight years to the day since Williams made his Canterbury debut (against Bay of Plenty) following his return to New Zealand from French club Toulon (where he went after walking out on the Canterbury Bulldogs).

He came with his own ideas about how things should be done and had little time for those who thought otherwise. Determined to get his media duties out of the way early, he sat in a very cold Rugby Park grandstand and did interview after interview in a Canterbury hoodie with an outdated sponsor's logo on it – a win for that manufacturer but not the current one of the time – a case of needs must but which created all sorts of difficulties for the person in charge of the managing team's media demands. (I know this for it was I.)

A few weeks later he didn't feel the need to explain to the media why he went skiing at Mt Hutt despite being unable to play due to a hamstring strain (he felt it would simply inflame the situation and in hindsight he was probably right), but he is far more accommodating these days, possibly because he's matured now that he's a father of three or simply because he's mellowed a bit. It happens, but then again some of us get more set in our ways as we age.

He takes seriously his duties as father and husband. It is said that he doesn't have a television in his home because of the need to be present for his family when there. He takes his duties as a role model seriously and isn't afraid of looking vulnerable. He is active on social media and recently tweeted to his 810,000 followers: "Today when my wife left the house I sat on the couch for 10 min with tears rolling down my face. Feeling the aroha [love] in the house was such an empowering experience."

He is a dedicated follower of Islam, and like it or not, this is another reason why people dislike him.

He is flawed, like we all are, but is prepared to do things most others wouldn't in order to help people less fortunate.


"As New Zealanders we tend to shy away from the spotlight because people will look and judge," he told the Herald last week. "The more you can get comfortable in your own skin, the more you'll step out for causes like this that are close to your heart.

"I've always felt like I've been a good person – just a little bit misunderstood. Now I don't care, bro. I'm doing something good … people will point the finger and say 'look at this dickhead, who does he think he is up on stage with a beanie on his head…'

But "… I want to show my kids [that homelessness exists and is an issue] – give them gratitude and empathy."

Nothing wrong with that, surely?