“But the quality of the player and strength of his personal brand and what it would mean to Toronto and the Super League, Sonny ticks all he boxes.
“It would be unbelievable to sign a player like that. The discussions are on-going. We’re not close at the moment.
“I would say by the middle to the end of next week [we need an answer]. He’s got a big game this weekend so nobody wants to talk at this point in time. But by the middle to the end of next week for sure we need an answer because we need to plan our squad.”
The Herald reported at the start of the week that Toronto were prepared to pay Williams a staggering $9 million for two years, something that is feasible when Toronto’s owner is Australian mining billionaire David Argyle and the Super League allows for a marquee signing to have just $300,000 included in the official salary cap.
“I’d rather not talk financial terms. Those figures haven’t come out of our camp or their camp,” Hunter said. “But he does have that recognition in both codes and he’d do a lot for our audience, certainly here and as well as the UK and at the stadiums we play.”
Toronto have grown their average crowd from 3500 to 8500 the past few years and sold out Lamport Stadium, their 9600-capacity home ground, for the final two play-off games this season. They will split their home games between Toronto, London – where there are 60,000 Canadians – and the Manchester area.
“We’re moving to the Super League, we know there are holes in our squad and we need to strengthen it, and our [head of football] Brian Noble never stops when it comes to that,” Hunter said.
Hunter also welcomed bids from New York and Ottawa who are keen to start their own league franchises with the long-term goal of joining the Super League.
Williams had remained tight-lipped about his next move and made a point of focusing on the All Blacks’ Cup campaign.
European rugby and boxing remain two other viable options for Williams, but a return to the NRL is off the cards. Williams would command too high a salary as well as the fact not many clubs would have an appetite to commit a large chunk of their salary cap to a 34-year-old.
Williams remains a favourite at the Sydney Roosters with chairman Nick Politis keen to eventually lure the Kiwi legend a spot on the club’s coaching roster.
Should he accept the Wolfpack deal and play in the Super League – a competition whose focus on attack rather than defence will suit Williams’ body – it will easily be the most lucrative he has signed during his brilliant career.
Several Australians feature for the Wolfpack including former Sea Eagle and Eel Darcy Lussick, as well as Ricky Leutele who inked a big deal. Ashton Sims was another big name who retired this season.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.