Even the Sydney Roosters are unsure how Sonny Bill Williams will perform when he links up with the club this weekend.
- Sonny Bill Williams is set to be available to play for the Roosters following the upcoming round
- Williams last played for the Roosters in 2014 and helped the club to a premiership win the previous season
- The Roosters are not putting any expectations on Williams given his time away from the NRL
Williams’ two weeks of isolation, spent holed up in a Sydney hotel with his four children and wife, ends on Thursday.
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson has already named his 21-man squad for Thursday night’s match against the Melbourne Storm, which has come too soon for Williams.
But the Is have been dotted and the Ts crossed for the 35-year-old to soon reunite with his former club and Robinson is looking forward to unleashing his new weapon.
“That’s [Williams signing] all been done, he gets out Thursday night and he’ll be ready to join us on the weekend,” Robinson said.
After six years away from the NRL, the Roosters and fans alike are waiting with bated breath to see how Williams will perform.
“We will see him move and how he connects with the guys around him, then we’ll get a further idea,” Robinson said.
As Canterbury did with English recruit Luke Thompson, it is likely the Roosters would have provided gym equipment in the apartment in which Williams and his family quarantined in to allow him to stay in shape.
But after two weeks of quarantine, the back-to-back premiers are not setting the bar too high and are keeping tight-lipped on how Williams will contribute to the team.
“I’d like to keep those conversations private, [on] how we will use him. We’ve had lots of discussions and we will see,” Robinson said.
The Roosters’ fairytale scenario is that the New Zealand dual international will guide the club to an historic premiership three-peat. Williams has already won an NRL premiership with the club in 2013.
This return is not about money for Williams, as he remains on a $10 million contract with Super League’s Toronto Wolfpack until 2021. The club pulled out of this year’s competition with the coronavirus pandemic creating too much of a financial toll.
Coming into a side this close to finals, the Roosters could look to use Williams as a Cooper Cronk-type leader figure.
Robinson said Williams had similar qualities to Cronk.
“His [Williams] biggest attribute is the courage he has to play footy,” he said.
“You see the man has got a fire in him, a hunger to perform and he loves playing in a team environment.”
Williams behind Roosters’ winning culture
Anthony Minichiello captained the Roosters when Williams last played for the club in 2014.
Minichiello retired that year after setting the record for the most matches and most tries in the club’s history.
He credited Williams for instilling a winning culture that has led to the Tricolours’ subsequent premiership success in 2018 and 2019.
“He’s an utter professional on and off the field,” Minichiello said.
“That’s what our club culture is built around now, being a full-time professional.
“That’s what Trent Robinson challenged us on all those years ago and that’s what the team is now and that’s what Sonny is.”
Minichiello is fully supportive of his former teammate linking up with the club.
“I have wonderful memories of playing with him, 2013 was a record year for us with a minor premiership and a premiership,” Minichiello said.
“[In] 2014 we had another minor premiership, but didn’t get the job done.”
Minichiello said Williams would make as big an impact on the game today as he did at the height of his career.
“Young kids look at him and say, ‘if I want to play my best, these are the things I’ve got to do’,” he said.
“We learnt from him, the way he does things consistently to get results.
As for Williams’s on-field output, Minichiello was not quite as confident but he said the pros outweighed the cons.
“That’s what we will find out,” Minichiello said.
“Even if he doesn’t bring anything on the field, it’s what he brings off the field that people look at.”
Effort, Minichiello said, certainly would not be an issue.
“He’s always in training an hour before doing rehab, making sure his body is prepped perfectly,” he said.
“It’s the way young kids will look up to him and see how he prepares.”
Williams could be up for selection when the Roosters take on the Wests Tigers on August 22.