Monday, September 10, 2012

Sonny Bill Who?

He can play tiddly-winks for all Tim Cronin from rugbyshirts.net cares…

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I’ve just spent some time reading commentaries from around the globe, and I can’t believe how divided the opinion is about Sonny Bill Williams and his impending departure from Rugby Union – he really has polarized people.

So I thought I’d throw my ten cents in there, for what it’s worth. (which is probably about nine cents).

To be honest, I’m glad to see the back of him.

Blasphemy you say? Well let me explain myself.

First and foremost, he is a truly phenomenal talent, and he leaves New Zealand Rugby at a time when he has finally found his feet in the game. His ability to break the line is up there with the very best in the business, and his ability to off-load in the tackle is so much better than anyone else in international rugby it’s almost unbelievable.

So I respect him for the wonderful attacking weapon, and the ferocious defensive player that he is.

And it’s not even his weaknesses on the field that have made me happy to see the back of him. Jonah Lomu had plenty of weaknesses – He couldn’t kick, his hands were average and he had a well-known inability to turn and chase on defence. But the fact that, on his day, he was essentially unstoppable with the ball in hand outweighed all those shortcomings, much as SBW’s ability to break open a match at any moment makes up for his frequent poor decision-making.

From the moment Sonny Bill Williams arrived in New Zealand it has felt like the circus was in town, and that’s why I’m happy to see the back of him.

By all accounts he’s a nice enough chap in person. But he doesn’t travel alone, and the poisonous little thing that accompanies him in the guise of a 'manager', Khoder Nasser, has much to answer for.

I don’t begrudge a young guy the opportunity to make as much money as he can using his God-given sporting ability, but I do resent the attitude that Sonny Bill carries around; there is unquestionably an air about him that suggests he thinks he is bigger than the game.

Throughout his career as a professional sportsman he has shown an incredible lack of loyalty – from the moment he walked out on the NRL’s Bulldogs midway through the season to his switch back to league just months after grabbing a World Cup winner’s medal. It was obvious to all-in-sundry that Williams was driven not by a desire to see New Zealand Rugby prosper, but purely by his own desire to snare that medal, and his immediate departure leaves me, as a member of the Kiwi rugby public, feeling a little like a party to a one-night stand, who wakes up in the morning to find the other side of the bed empty and the window slightly ajar.

I don’t think SBW ever really understood what the All Black jersey meant. Even the great Jonah, who was, in his hey-day, unquestionably the biggest name in the sport, would balk at the suggestion that he was ‘bigger than the game itself’, or bigger than the All Black jersey.

I think we can do without the ‘will he be here next year or won’t he’ chat that follows Sonny Bill to every club, and every code he goes to. While he was an asset on the field I think the sideshow that is the SBW self-promotion machine is a distraction, and one that we can do without.

There’s plenty of game-breakers around the country, and while none have the outrageous skills that SBW does, there are many who will be more committed to the black jersey, and cause far less drama.

So Sonny, don’t let the door hit ya on the way out.

Tim Cronin is a Rugby fan and full time writer based in the rubble of the Canterbury Crusaders’ home town, Christchurch. Tim is a part of the Pukeko Sportsteam, where his role is watching, writing, and complaining about all things rugby.

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