Monday , July 13 2020
Home / Sport / Sonny Bill Williams’ Toronto Wolfpack debut doesn’t go to plan

Sonny Bill Williams’ Toronto Wolfpack debut doesn’t go to plan

Thankfully a group of autograph hunters has slowed SBW down long enough for the fourth estate to catch up with him. “No media, he did it on the field,” said Wolfpack football manager Richard Whiting, in reference to a Sky TV interview.

Super League had requested Williams at the media conference but only the coach normally attends these things in England and the Wolfpack know the rules. But when your correspondent wades into the carpark cluster to ask something, the 34-year-old answers.

It’s not his sidestep, as it turns out, that brought him out the back door but the power plays of others in response to the steeply declining influence of the non-rights-paying media.

At that media conference, the Canadian team’s often taciturn coach Brian McDermott smile wryly when asked about Williams and the reaction he received from the crowd at Leeds, where McDermott coached the Rhinos to four Super League titles.

When Williams’s first touch of the ball was ruled a knock on (from the back of the South Stand it didn’t look like it), the Castleford fans in the western terraces chanted “what a waste of money” and “who are you?”.

Hull supporters, uninterested in subtlety, preferred “f— off Toronto, f— off Toronto” as they stood in the Skyrack pub getting ready for the second match of the double-header, against Leeds.

McDermott says: “The West Yorkshire crowd, they get excited about a certain aspect of life, don’t they? A certain aspect of life, which is usually on the negative side.

“That’s part of the theatre, I suppose. It got the biggest cheer of the day, when he dropped the ball.”

The best part of Toronto’s first Super League game was probably their entry onto the revamped arena, the superhero-proportioned Williams tenderly gripping the hand of a tiny mascot. In the northern hemisphere anyway, this is a vision that might – with just a little imagination – represent the sport’s salvation.

When has BBC World Service ever taken an interest in the game from the grim north before?

Ten minutes in and they don’t only have the best player and the most exotic location but they play the best football! Everything’s a two or three pass shift, they seem to be able to manoeuvre their way outside the Castleford defence. They score first through the pony-tailed Irish international Liam Kay.

But when a pass that should have led to another try ends in a 95-metre scoot for former Brisbane import Greg Eden for Castleford, the cracks begin to appear. They never close. Castleford make Toronto pay for errors in a way that Championship and League 1 opposition could not.

Blake Wallace, the halfback from Dapto who has been along for the entire Torontonian ride, says: “Definitely the speed of it …they played really fast and made us pay. Physicality? You’re playing against men again. It’s not much different.”

And so, surrounded by selfie-seeking kids with Whiting and stadium security trying to hurry him along (“they’re waiting for me on the bus, bro”), Williams doesn’t hesitate when finally run down by the journalistic cover defence.

“It was obviously disappointing from a team point of view but from a personal point of view it was great to get back out there,” he says.

“Awesome atmosphere and for myself, going into the game, the coach only wanted me to play 20, 30 minutes max but it felt like I was getting the feel of it when I was out there.

“For me, I just prided myself on trying to do the little things well. Obviously it wasn’t magical.

“But the foundations were laid and I’ve got to keep working on that.

“It’s a long season, so …. Always humbling.

“Things will come, bro. The magic will come as long as I do the little things well. Looking back, third man in, getting up fast, kick-chase, all that. That’s the foundations: the little things people don’t see. Pushing up, support play, that stuff.”

The Wolfpack have just 23 players for an eight-month season. When the Kangaroos go to Britain for a month, they take 28.


Back door or not, there will be no escape for Sonny Bill Williams this year and nowhere to hide.

Most Viewed in Sport


About admin

Check Also

Dragons thump Manly as Hasler weighs up $1 million problem

It’s just how things are going for Cherry-Evans – and Manly – at the moment. …