Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau at Moore Park playing fields. Picture: Supplied
Sonny Bill Williams and Israel Folau at Moore Park playing fields. Picture: Supplied

Williams opens up on Folau’s ‘US move’

Sonny Bill Williams has opened up on reports that Israel Folau has been linked to a New York rugby league franchise, as he prepares for round one of his North American career.

Williams, 34, has joined the Toronto Wolfpack on a two-year $10 million deal, with his first game to be as early as next week.

Sonny Bill Williams with teammate Jon Wilkin at press conference with their new rugby league team Toronto Wolfpack. Picture: Matthew Pover
Sonny Bill Williams with teammate Jon Wilkin at press conference with their new rugby league team Toronto Wolfpack. Picture: Matthew Pover

Folau, who was forced out of rugby in Australia over his social media posts, has been approached by a New York team that wants to play in the UK-based Super League alongside Toronto.

A Folau move stateside would see two of the biggest names in Australian rugby becoming marquee players for the growth of the game in North America.

"There's always been reports about Israel, there's always reports and they always seem to be coming out of Australia, time will tell, bro," he said.

Sonny Bill Williams greets Israel Folau as their training sessions overlapped at Moore Park playing fields. Picture: Supplied
Sonny Bill Williams greets Israel Folau as their training sessions overlapped at Moore Park playing fields. Picture: Supplied

When asked if Folau should get back into the game, he repeated: "Time will tell."

The Toronto Wolfpack has been promoted to Super League, which mainly plays in the north of England after two promotions in three years from lower leagues.

"We understand the pressures that come with being a foreign team," Williams said.

"It's such an exciting time, yeah there's challenges but if you walk towards those challenges we could do something special here.

"There's a bit of a spirit over there at the moment and so be it because the boys have been so successful in the last couple of years and hopefully we can carry on that momentum."

Sonny Bill Williams, left, personal trainer Keegan Smith. Picture: Instagram
Sonny Bill Williams, left, personal trainer Keegan Smith. Picture: Instagram

The club is entering Super League with a slimline squad of 23 players to fit its star signing into the salary cap.

However, his teammate Jon Wilkin backed his group in, saying there was no evidence having a deeper list would guarantee success.

"Having someone in the dressing room, a player of his quality, of his stature, somebody who has had that amount of experience in both codes and to travel and to bring that into our dressing room is immeasurable," he said.

"We've got a small squad and the average age of our squad is 29.

"The evidence that a large squad is good for performance is anecdotal at best but having a competent squad is absolutely the aim."

 

Wilkin said Toronto was not there to make up the numbers this season.

"Sonny coming into our organisation increases our competency. That one signing for the game, I think it's really important that we understand the influence of what a star like Sonny can have on our sport," he said.

Sonny Bill Williams at a press conference with his new rugby league team Toronto Wolfpack. Picture: Matthew Pover
Sonny Bill Williams at a press conference with his new rugby league team Toronto Wolfpack. Picture: Matthew Pover

Williams' family is currently in New Zealand, he will play home games in Toronto, Canada, and spend much of the year in the UK, mainly based around Manchester.

He said while it would be a juggle, he would manage it with the right mindset.

Williams and coach Brian McDermott have repeatedly said that they hoped Williams' best form would come in the final third of the season, as they both try to play down expectations on the star who has been playing rugby union for the past five years.

 

McDermott said that Williams was the percentage chance of him playing in the first game was "in the 90s" against the Castleford Tigers at Headingley on February 2.

"We've had a really pragmatic approach, I know the expectation of him and his own desires and expectations are massive," he said.

"I think it would be foolish to try and get that from round one.

"Those defensive kilometres in rugby league that he's got to reach, he hasn't had to do that in five years."

Wolfpack chairman Bob Hunter said he was working on a TV deal to get the new club's home games televised, as well as put on a streaming service.

 

 

stephen.drill@news.co.uk



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