Well the winters worst kept secret is out, Sonny Bill Williams has agreed to play in Super League for at least the next two seasons in a mammoth $10 million deal with Toronto.
It’s not quite clear how these figures will work out as the club themselves are yet to confirm, but it is believed that Williams will become a shareholder in the club making him the highest paid rugby player in the world.
It is a real commitment to Super League from Wolfpack supremo David Argyle and it will surely capture the imagination of a sports mad city.
Toronto is home to the reigning NBA champions and a Super League title for the Wolfpack could see Williams mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Kyle Lowry on the streets of Toronto.
I’m quite sure Argyle won’t stop here, especially if the rules around the salary cap are relaxed further, and the sport should expect more top quality signings heading to the Lamport Stadium.
Surely next year is too soon, but for the Raptors of 2019 we could be reading about the Wolfpack of 2021.
For me the whole franchise lives or dies on how it develops the sport in North America, but for now signings like this are needed to get our game in the news and to get the TV companies interested.
I’m sure sports fans in North America are familiar with the name Sonny Bill Williams and hopefully this will inspire them to give our great game a try.
They have already managed to build a 9,000-strong home base and this will take the club even further.
It’s crucial that Toronto build a sustainable base for the future with young Canadians playing in the first team. Obviously this can’t happen overnight but in time I believe they will get there.
As for Super League, what an opportunity this is for club chairman to get more fans in their grounds.
Crowds have been dropping dramatically in the last few years but this should be a big boost. SBW will tempt more people to watch the Wolfpack on their travels, both from the RL family and the wider sporting public.
Yes, at 34, his best days may be behind him, but he is the most well known rugby player in the world and surely in the top three of cross-code internationals in the modern era.
He has played a World Cup final in both codes, winning the 15-a-side trophy in 2011 and 2015. At club level he is one of only four players (alongside Brad Thorn, Peter Ryan and Will Chambers) to have won the NRL and Super Rugby.
Furthermore, Williams also has a runners up medal in the European Cup (Toulon 2008) and is even a title holder in boxing, once being pursued by Don King.
Putting all this together it shows we are getting someone whose fame goes well beyond the boundaries of rugby league, or rugby in general.
It is the biggest signing since the Super League began back in the 90’s, the news outlets have been covering this story all week and surely the world’s media will be in attendance when he finalises the deal.
The Wolfpack Trans-Atlantic project is unique and it should now capture the attention of the sports news outlets across the sport. It’s great news for Super League when we needed the raised profile more than ever.
What a great day ahead as we look to the opening double header at Headingley as Toronto take on Castleford, before the Rhinos play Hull. Surely a sell out to kick start Super League 2020?
The comments about the salary cap are predictable, but surely any rule that would stop Sonny Bill Williams playing in our competition is a bad one?
It’s time to relax them further and maybe even introduce more marquee players so we can stop, and maybe even reverse, the player drain to the NRL.
Welcome to Super League, Sonny Bill.