Finally some good news for those long-suffering Auckland Blues supporters.
Sonny Bill Williams is staying true to his Auckland roots by committing to their Super Rugby franchise until the end of 2019.
Williams, who won World Cup medals in 2011 and 2015, had a phone conversation with New Zealand coach Steve Hansen shortly after the All Blacks retained the Webb Ellis trophy and his mind was made up:
“Straight after that call, I got onto my manager and told him ‘Let’s get the contract done’.”
Getting it done was not as simple as that. The NZRU were offering a lucrative three-year deal worth NZ$ 2.5 million. That comes in at $800k a season [just over €500k].
However, Williams’ manager told reporters his player spurned several offers from Europe. The highest salary offer the 30-year-old received was €2.5m over two seasons. We’re speculating that the world record salary [working out at $NZ 2 million a season] was from Toulon, who openly courted him.
Williams, who has played for Crusaders and Chiefs in the past, is eager to link up with Blues boss and former Toulon teammate Tana Umaga. However, the main reason he remained in New Zealand was much closer to home. He told reporters:
“I’ve got a young family, got a little daughter, and hopefully we’ll have some more kids running around in the next few years.
“My wife doesn’t have any family here [New Zealand] and most of my family is in Auckland. Obviously I’m an Auckland kid so it’s pretty much home for me.”
Williams will not resume Super Rugby duties until the 2017 season so the medium-term future is all about settling his family in Auckland. Once he does that, he will seek to return the glory years to a team that has not been Super Rugby champions since 2003.
The immediate future is Sevens Rugby and the Rio Olympics.