Sonny Bill Williams
Sonny William 'Sonny Bill' Williams (born 3 August 1985) is a New Zealand rugby player and heavyweight boxer who has played rugby league and rugby union at the highest levels. He currently plays rugby union for the Chiefs in Super Rugby. He is only the second person to represent New Zealand in rugby union after first playing for the country in rugby league. He is particularly known in both codes for his ability to offload the ball in the tackle and, formerly in rugby league, for his shoulder charges.
Williams made his professional rugby league debut for the Canterbury Bulldogs during the 2004 National Rugby League (NRL) season. In 2008 he left the Bulldogs mid-season to play rugby union with French club Toulon. In 2010 Williams signed with the New Zealand Rugby Union in a successful bid to play for the All Blacks at the 2011 Rugby World Cup. He played provincially for Canterbury in the 2010 ITM Cup before being selected for the All Blacks' 2010 end of year tour, where he made his test debut against England on 6 November. In Super Rugby he played for the Crusaders in 2011 and the Chiefs in 2012. Following that, he played briefly for Panasonic in the Japanese Top League before returning to rugby league after signing with the Sydney Roosters for the 2013 NRL season. That year he was judged the world's best rugby league player at the annual RLIF Awards. After playing another season for the Roosters in 2014, Williams returned to New Zealand rugby with Counties Manukau in the 2014 ITM Cup, followed by the Chiefs in 2015.
From 2009 to 2013, Williams boxed professionally six times, winning all six of his heavyweight bouts before suspending his boxing career to focus on football. Subsequently, he resurrected his boxing career in early 2015. He was formerly the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association (NZPBA) Heavyweight Champion and World Boxing Association (WBA) International Heavyweight Champion and is currently ranked inside the top 100 heavyweight boxers in the world with boxing website BoxRec.
Williams was born on 3 August 1985, in Auckland, New Zealand, the son of John and Lee (née Woolsey). His father is Samoan and was raised in New Zealand. His mother is a New Zealander of Pakeha lineage, including English, Scottish and Irish descent. His maternal grandmother is Australian, which made Williams eligible to play for the Australian national rugby league team. He has an older brother, John Arthur, and younger twin sisters, Niall and Denise.
Williams grew up in a working-class family in a state house in the Auckland suburb of Mount Albert. In describing his struggling family background, Williams later said that the "driving factor" in his pursuit of playing professional rugby league was to "get my mum a house." He attended Owairaka Primary School, Wesley Intermediate and Mount Albert Grammar School. As a child he has been described as being a "small, skinny white kid" who was "painfully shy", as well as "a freakish sporting talent, a competitive sprinter, a champion high jumper and cross country runner and the kid who played footy in teams a couple of age divisions above, to make things fairer." Despite being tipped to have a promising future in athletics, Williams abandoned it when he was about twelve years old. Though his father was an accomplished rugby league player, Williams has said it was his mother who introduced him to the game.
Williams was a Marist Saints junior when he was spotted playing in Auckland by Bulldogs talent scout John Ackland. In 2002 he was offered a contract and moved to Sydney (as the youngest player to ever sign with an NRL club) to play in the Bulldogs' junior grades. While training professionally, Williams worked full-time as a labourer. He advanced up the ranks quickly: becoming a starting player in the forward pack for the Bulldogs' Jersey Flegg Cup side in his first year. The following year Williams cemented a starting spot in the Premier League side. He also represented NSW as a junior; however, in 2013, when the NSW team investigated whether he could represent them in State of Origin, it was found that he only met two of the five necessary qualifications.
In 2004, when eighteen years old, Williams made his NRL debut for the Bulldogs against the Parramatta Eels at Telstra Stadium. In 2004 he was selected by New Zealand after only a handful of NRL games and on 23 April made his debut for the Kiwis as their youngest-ever Test player in the 2004 ANZAC Test against Australia. He had previously played for the Junior Kiwis. Williams played fifteen NRL matches during the season—establishing himself in the Bulldogs squad. He experienced premiership success in his debut season and became the youngest person to play for the Bulldogs in a grand final when playing off the bench in the Bulldogs' 16-13 victory over the Sydney Roosters in the 2004 NRL Grand Final. Williams capped a successful debut season by receiving the 2004 RLIF Awards' International Newcomer of the Year Award and being named in Rugby League World magazine's 2004 World XIII. As 2004 NRL premiers, the Bulldogs faced Super League IX champions, the Leeds Rhinos, in the 2005 World Club Challenge, which the Bulldogs lost 32-39.
Williams's contract was due to expire in 2005, and he received several offers to lure him away from the Bulldogs. The largest offer was rumoured to be about $3 million from UK Super League club St Helens. Williams decided to stay with the Bulldogs and signed on for a further two years. St Helens chairman Eamonn McManus later said the club had not made an offer to him.
Williams stayed relatively injury-free throughout the 2006 season, playing in 21 matches and scoring eight tries. The Bulldogs were beaten in the preliminary final by eventual premiers the Brisbane Broncos. However, off-season surgery forced Williams to miss the Tri-Nations for New Zealand for the second consecutive year.
In the first game of the 2007 season, Williams was sent off and subsequently suspended for two weeks for a high tackle on Andrew Johns. He thus became the first player of the 21st century to be sent off in a first-round game. Speculation surrounding Williams's playing future ended when he re-signed with the Bulldogs on 9 March 2007 for a five-year contract worth over $2.5 million, extending through to the 2012 season. Williams was selected to play for the Kiwis as a second-row forward in the 2007 Anzac Test loss against Australia. He went on to play in 21 matches for the Bulldogs; scored fourteen tries and topped the competition, for the second successive year, for most offloads. However, Williams broke his forearm in a tackle on Nathan Hindmarsh during the semi-final against the Eels. His team lost the match, and Williams was again ruled out from representing New Zealand in the post-season 2007 Great Britain Tour. He was nominated for 'Second-Rower of the Year' at the 2007 Dally M Awards; however, Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles second-rower Anthony Watmough won the award.
- 2004: International Newcomer of the Year
- 2004: World XIII
- 2004: Samoan Sports Association Junior Sportsman of the Year
- 2005: Nickelodeon Australian Kids' Choice Awards "Fave Rising Star"
- 2012: New Zealand Professional Boxing Association (NZPBA) Heavyweight Champion
- 2012: Chiefs' players' player award
- 2013: WBA International Heavyweight Champion
- 2013: Jack Gibson Medalist - Sydney Roosters' Player of the Year
- 2013: No.9 in AskMen's Top 49 Most Influential Men (2013 edition)
- 2013: RLIF International Second-rower of the Year
- 2013: RLIF International Player of the Year
- 2004: NRL Premiers with the Bulldogs
- 2010: Ranfurly Shield winner with Canterbury
- 2010: ITM Cup winner with Canterbury
- 2011: Bledisloe Cup winner with New Zealand
- 2011: Rugby World Cup winner with New Zealand
- 2012: Super Rugby winner with the Chiefs
- 2012: Bledisloe Cup winner with New Zealand
- 2013: NRL Minor Premiers with the Roosters
- 2013: NRL Premiers with the Roosters
- 2014: World Club Challenge winner with the Roosters
- 2014: NRL Minor Premiers with the Roosters
- 2015: Bulldogs Team of the Decade (2005-2014) – as a back-rower
- Sonny Bill Williams sinbinned for shoulder charge on debut, by David Murray, The Daily Telegraph, 9 August2008.
- SBW told to put shoulder charge away newstalkzb.co.nz, 20 October 2011
- Hewett, Chris (28 March 2011). "Williams and Carter produce a Super show for Twickenham". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-union/club-rugby/williams-and-carter-produce-a-super-show-for-twickenham-2254814.html#.
- "Sonny Bill is still a mum's boy at heart". Fairfax. 11 May 2008. http://www.stuff.co.nz/4521609a10713.html. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
- 48 hours: Sonny Bill – the future and a reminder of league's follies, by Chris Rattue, nzherald.co.nz
- "Sonny Bill Williams, the contender". The Australian. 2 March 2013. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/the-contender/story-e6frg8h6-1226586019500.
- "Family values driving Sonny Bill to his date with destiny". The Sydney Morning Herald. 27 September 2004. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/09/26/1096137105585.html?from=moreStories. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- Early hints of Sonny Bill's charisma, by Steve Deane, nzherald.co.nz, dated 16 March 2013.
- Sonny Bill Williams, the contender, by Greg Bearup, The Australian, dated 2 March 2013.
- Sonny Bill Williams: 'All those troubles made me the man I am today', by Donald McRae, The Guardian, dated 29 October 2013.
- Wilson, Andy (6 November 2004). "All eyes trained on Kiwis' boy wonder". Guardian (UK: Guardian News and Media). http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2004/nov/06/rugbyleague.andywilson1. Retrieved 17 October 2010.
- There's something about: Sonny Bill Williams, league player, nzherald.co.nz, dated 26 October 2013.
- Rattue, Chris (2 September 2006). "Jerome Ropati – Miracle in the making". New Zealand Herald (APN Holdings). http://www.nzherald.co.nz/warriors-league-team/news/article.cfm?c_id=360&objectid=10399308. Retrieved 10 October 2010.
- "The King, Sonny and heir". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax). 2 October 2004. http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2004/10/01/1096527943523.html. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- Sonny Bill Williams: Islam brings me happiness, by Gary Morley and Neil Curry, CNN, dated 27 November 2013.
- Honeysett, Stuart (31 July 2008). "Sonny Bill Williams upgrades to penthouse". Australian (News). http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/sonny-bill-upgrades-to-penthouse/story-e6frg7oo-1111117062737. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- Rugby League World Cup 2013: Sonny Bill Williams eyes greatness, by Ben Dirs, BBC Sport, dated 22 November 2013.
- Daniel Lane (30 May 2015). "Cooper Cronk's former running mate can't help Blues get his number". Brisbane Times. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/rugby-league/st-george-illawarra-dragons/cooper-cronks-former-running-mate-cant-help-blues-get-his-number-20150530-ghd1cg.html. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
- Gordos (16 February 2005). "Williams has world at his feet". BBC Sport. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/rugby_league/4268649.stm. Retrieved 12 November 2011.
- Walter, Brad (10 March 2005). "What Sonny Bill is worth". Sydney Morning Herald (Fairfax). http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2005/03/09/1110316096193.html. Retrieved 27 January 2011.
- Walshaw, Nick (11 August 2008). "Sonny Bill Williams' slant on the truth". Courier Mail. News. http://www.couriermail.com.au/sport/nrl/sonnys-slant-on-the-truth/story-e6frep9x-1111117156018. Retrieved 3 September 2011.
- "New Zealand names five newcomers for Tri-Nations". AFP. 5 Oct 2006. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2006-10-04/new-zealand-names-five-newcomers-for-tri-nations/1278894. Retrieved 19 July 2015.
- "Sharks v Dragons preview". NRL. 17 March 2011. http://www.nrl.com/sharks-v-dragons-preview/tabid/10874/newsid/61792/default.aspx.
- "I want to be a Bulldog for life". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax. 9 March 2007. http://www.smh.com.au/news/league/dogs-tie-up-sonny-bill-for-five-years/2007/03/08/1173166891498.html?s_cid=rss_smh.
- "Anzac Test Match 2007". rugbyleagueproject.org. Shawn Dollin, Andrew Ferguson and Bill Bates. http://www.rugbyleagueproject.org/matches/anzac-test-match-2007/australia-vs-new-zealand.html. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
- Roosters v Rabbitohs preview, by Ben Blaschke, NRL.com, dated 5 March 2013.
- Samoan Sports Association
- Sonny Bill makes 'Most Influential Men' list, by ARN, dated 6 November 2013.
- Top 49 Men: 2013 edition, askmen.com.
- Adrian Proszenko (1 August 2015). "Sonny Bill Williams named in Canterbury Bulldogs team of the decade". Sydney Morning Herald. http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-league/league-news/sonny-bill-williams-named-in-canterbury-bulldogs-team-of-the-decade-20150801-gipebj.html. Retrieved 2 August 2015.
- Matheson, John (2011). Sonny Bill Williams: The Story of Rugby's New Superstar. HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand. p. 144. ISBN 9781869508623. http://naturebeebookclub.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/sonny-bill-williams-the-story-of-rugbys-new-superstar-matheson-john/.
- Riley, David (2013). Off Loading with Sonny Bill Williams. Smashwords. p. 70. ISBN 9781311082213. http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/371003.
- Kent, Paul (2015). Sonny Ball — The Legend of Sonny Bill Williams. Macmillan Australia. p. 368. ISBN 9781743539200. http://www.panmacmillan.com.au/display_title.asp?ISBN=9781743534212&Author=Kent,%20Paul.