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October 14, 2013 | by  | in Opinion |
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Hoopin’ and Hollerin’

As a Law student, I know what it’s like to be a mercenary sometimes. I also know what it’s like to be hated for no reason. So in that way, and few others, I resemble Sonny Bill Williams.

He’s had a fairly polarising history, spread across three sports, not to mention an incredibly successful one. From league, to union, to boxing and back to league, SBW has done it all with his trademark big hits and impossible offloads, as well as no small amount of good looks as the cherry on top. All of that adds up to one hell of a media profile—so it’s no surprise that he’s in the news yet again.

Were we supposed to be shocked? After playing (and winning) the NRL Grand Final with his new team the Sydney Roosters, SBW made himself unavailable for selection in the Kiwis Rugby League World Cup team. Then, once the team had been announced, he suddenly decided that he was available after all. Poor Tohu Harris was kicked to the kerb as Steve Kearney hastened to include one of the greats in his side.

There’s no doubt that the Kiwis with Sonny Bill stand a much greater chance of winning the World Cup than the Kiwis without him. He’s just that good, and deserves to be in the side. That said, a lot of sporting traditionalists are doubtless tutting with disapproval. It’s not quite fair, is it, that some poor kid has to miss out on what could well be his only shot at a World Cup, having his hopes dashed just because Sonny Bill couldn’t make his mind up.

But is that the only reason behind it? Plenty of observers have wondered whether there’s something else working behind the scenes, and you can’t really blame them. Sonny’s got a track record of making relatively self-interested deals, like his move from the Bulldogs to Toulon in 2008. That’s not to mention the mercenary reputation he’s earned thanks in no small part to his high-profile agent, Khoder Nasser.

And the stakes are high enough, too. The NZRL (and everyone else in league) stands to gain plenty from Sonny Bill playing in the World Cup, since he’s a massive drawcard for will-they-won’t-they audiences. Not to mention that they’d love for him to stay interested in their code for the foreseeable future.

Maybe I’m being a cynic—he was taking a break when suddenly that patriotic fervour arose deep within his breast. Maybe money’s not the issue here. Hell, maybe he’s getting back with Jaime Ridge. It’s all guessing at this stage.

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