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SBW touches down as game flags rule changes for player eligibility

“Every decision the commission makes is based on what is in the best interests of the game,” acting NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo told The Herald.

“The Sonny Bill situation is very simple. The rules state you cannot be contracted in two competitions at the same time. However, it is clear that Sonny Bill’s team the Toronto Wolfpack will not be playing for the remainder of the 2020 Super League season and Sonny Bill has nowhere to play for the rest of the year.

“If other NRL clubs want to sign players from the Toronto WolfPack we will apply the same discretion. We are working with a number of clubs on their options in this regard. The commission is very dynamic in its thinking.”

“They will be flexible to ensure rules don’t prevent what is in the best interests of the game. We are a sport, but also a business. Sonny Bill would create enormous interest during the back end of the season and that’s a great outcome for our whole competition.”

The decision to allow Williams back into the NRL has prompted suggestions the code risked opening the door for players to request off-season stints playing Japanese rugby union.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys insists exemptions will only be given in exceptional circumstances, unfazed by criticism levelled at him in recent days in relation to Williams and the desire to reduce the minimum age for young gun Joseph Suaalii.

Sonny Bill Williams leaving the UK. Pictured with Toronto teammates Bodene Thompson and Ricky Leutele.

Sonny Bill Williams leaving the UK. Pictured with Toronto teammates Bodene Thompson and Ricky Leutele. Credit:Twitter

“We’re actually not even amending that rule, we’re looking at amending all the rules to say that in exceptional circumstances, the commission may decide to exempt or relieve them,” V’landys said.

“It’s not just that rule. You look at every case on its merit. At the moment there’s other applications we’re reviewing. You’re adapting to a crisis. People don’t understand crisis management. If we stuck to that sort of thinking and weren’t flexible, we wouldn’t be playing now. It’s not about Sonny Bill. It’s about being adaptive to a crisis. The same would apply to any of the Toronto players. We are looking at all of them.

“We’re amending the rule to allow ourselves discretion. You should never have rules that are prescriptive because there are always cases that are exceptional. At the moment, like it or not, we are in a medical crisis. When you’re in a crisis, you need crisis management.”

“You can’t do what you do under normal circumstances. When you’re in a crisis, you discover things. One thing we’ve discovered is that the rules are too prescriptive. You need the rules to be able to have some discretion in them so you can adapt to the situation.”

Williams’ 14-day stay in Sydney’s CBD will be inside a three-bedroom apartment that includes a kitchen for him to prepare his own meals. He has also requested halal products to be provided to comply with his Islamic faith.

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The Sydney Roosters have also been working with the NRL to set up a gym for Williams to use and entertainment for his four children, who are aged between five months and six years.

Roosters head of performance Travis Touma has been entrusted with setting up the gym and training regime Williams will put himself through over the next fortnight, after the veteran back-rower cancelled a European family holiday to make his NRL comeback.

Williams has not trained in two months or played in close to five months, but will train with the Roosters once released from mandatory quarantine on August 13, with the club hopeful of using the 35-year-old for their round-17 grand-final rematch against the Canberra Raiders on September 5.

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