It’s official: Sonny Bill Williams is heading back to league, this time in the uncharted territory of Canada. The much-rumoured move to the Toronto Wolfpack was confirmed this morning by Williams and his agent Khoder Nasser, who have brokered a deal worth around $10 million for two years at the Super League club.
The deal makes Williams the highest paid player in either rugby or league.
"I have been privileged and blessed to have been given so many opportunities in New Zealand rugby, starting with Canterbury back in 2010, as well as the Crusaders and Chiefs, Counties Manukau and, of course, the Blues and All Blacks. I'd like to thank all those fans in New Zealand and around the world who have supported me," Williams said in a press release this morning.
The 32-year-old played his final game for the All Blacks last week, in their 40-17 win over Wales in the World Cup bronze medal match. Although he could not lift the trophy in 2019, Williams leaves with the rare feat of being a double World Cup winner, in 2015 and 2011.
He also represented New Zealand in Sevens at the 2016 Olympics, but he originally made his name as a league player with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs. Williams won a premiership with the Bulldogs as a 19-year-old in 2005. He sensationally quit and joined the Toulon rugby club in France in 2007, with an eye on eventually making the All Blacks. After a two year stint that included winning his first World Cup, he returned to the NRL, this time with the Roosters. Another premiership was won in 2013, then he swapped back to rugby once again to play a starring role in the All Blacks’ World Cup defence in 2015.
“To the players I've been privileged enough to play with. I've enjoyed every moment being with the brothers and that will be the biggest thing I will miss: the camaraderie and fun with my fellow players and being privileged to suit up with them and go out and do what we love. It's been a pleasure” he said.
The Toronto Wolfpack have been promoted to the first division of the English Super League for the 2020 season. They have been in existence since 2017, and are the only professional rugby league team based in North America. The Wolfpack play blocks of four games at a time on either side of the Atlantic, and their current playing roster includes former Warriors second rower Bodene Thompson and English international Jon Wilkin.
Sonny Bill Williams career summary:
52 tests for the All Blacks, two World Cups (2011, 2015), Super Rugby champion (Chiefs 2012), ITM Cup (Canterbury 2010), Ranfurly Shield (2010, Canterbury)
Provinces: Canterbury, Counties Manukau
Super Rugby team: Crusaders, Chiefs, Blues
12 tests for the Kiwis, two NRL Premierships (Bulldogs 2005, Roosters 2013)
Clubs: Bulldogs, Roosters, Toronto Wolfpack
NZ Heavyweight champion, 7-0 (3 KO) pro record