Sonny Bill Williams has put his All Blacks career on hold in exchange for a stint in Japan and Australia. By STAFF REPORTER.
Sonny Bill Williams has put his career with the All Blacks on hold, having confirmed the signing of a short-term deal with Japanese Top League side Wild Knights. After his stint in Japan, he will head to Australia to play in the National Rugby League for 2013. The deal with the Japanese side is estimated to be worth $1.2 million for 12 games.
Williams will leave New Zealand at the end of the Super Rugby competition and has been ruled out of the inaugural expanded southern hemisphere championship, meaning he will miss Tests against Australia, South Africa and the newly-introduced Argentina.
The centre remained tight-lipped on which NRL club he would join, but media reports suggest that it could be Sydney Roosters. The 26-year-old walked out of a five-year deal with NLR side Canterbury Bulldogs in 2008 in order to switch codes, joining French club Toulon. Williams, who joined the Chiefs this year, said that although he felt comfortable with his Super Rugby team, he had a "handshake agreement" with the Australian NLR club that he had to honour.
"This is due to a handshake agreement made a few years ago before I even came back to New Zealand with an NRL club," Williams said.
"I haven't signed anything yet and I'm not in a position to elaborate on that (which NRL club he had agreed to join).
"I didn't think I would have loved it as much as I have back here. To be honest I kind of felt like I'd found my place at the Chiefs, but it just goes back to (the fact that) I've given someone my word and I've had to go on with it even though it was tough."
New Zealand teammate Dan Carter wished Williams well and said he understood how difficult career-related decisions could be.??''I respect the decision he has made. Everyone makes decisions and they are never easy,'' Carter said.
''I know I have been in that situation before. Different things drive different people. I just have to wish him well and I'm sure he will be successful in whatever he does.''
All Blacks coach, Steve Hansen, also rued the loss, but said that he hoped to see Williams return to New Zealand rugby in future.
"It is a shame and disappointing that New Zealand rugby is losing him," Hansen said.
"In talking to him, I know the decision has been a tough one, but we fully respect why he has made this decision.
"He is an outstanding athlete who has stamped his mark on the game and hopefully this is not the last time we see him in New Zealand rugby." DM
Photo by Reuters