Rugby League: Toronto Wolfpack confirm Sonny Bill WIlliams signing

The Toronto Wolfpack have officially confirmed the signing of dual-code international Sonny Bill Williams on a historic two-year deal. 

Williams had been linked with a move to the Wolfpack for several months, with rumours surfacing in February, but Newshub understands Toronto's interest in the 34-year-old dates back even further. 

In his new deal, Williams will earn a reported £5million (NZ$10m million), making it one of the most lucrative deals in the history of either code. 

His marquee status means that only the first £150,000 of his salary will count towards the club's salary cap.

He will also reportedly get an ownership stake in the club and a documentary series will be made about his first season at the club. 

Williams said he was excited for the next chapter in his journey, after he reportedly turned down deals from French and Japanese rugby union clubs to sign with Toronto. His contract begins December 1. 

"Toronto Wolfpack is a club that represents Toronto, which is a very multicultural city," he said. "The club has big ambitions and big goals. 

"I want to be part of all this and do all I can to help reach those lofty goals. 

"On the field, I'd like to bring high-quality play and do all I can for the betterment of the team. Off the field, I’d like to use my experience to mentor the young players and be helpful where I am needed. 

"Super League will be a new challenge and one I’m looking forward to. It will be a new experience and one I’m ready to embrace."

This will be Williams' third stint in rugby league, after previous terms with Canterbury Bulldogs from 2004-08 and Sydney Roosters from 2013-14, winning the NRL title with both.

On top of his league success, he's also had two spells in rugby union, playing with French side Toulon, and New Zealand Super Rugby sides the Crusaders, Chiefs and Blues.

He represented New Zealand in rugby league and union, playing 12 tests for the Kiwis and  58 times for the All Blacks, winning the Rugby World Cup in 2011 and 2015. He has also boxed professionally, winning all seven of his fights and holding the NZ heavyweight title.

Wolfpack head coach Brian McDermott was delighted to secure the signing of one of the game's biggest names.

“We have signed one of the highest profile rugby players - if not sports stars - in the world and he will enhance the world of rugby [league] in Toronto and certainly push the brand of the Wolfpack onto another level," he said. 

"The main point of excitement for our club is that we are signing a great rugby league player, who has the hunger to be successful in Super League, much as he was in the NRL and rugby union."

The Wolfpack start their Super League campaign against Castleford Tigers on February 3, although they won't play their first game in Canada until mid-April, due to weather. They will play three 'home' games at Leeds' Headingley, York's new stadium and Saracens RU's Allianz Park, before returning to Canada. 

The club first formed in 2016 and started the following year in League 1, the Rugby Football League's third-tier competition. 

The club also has a base in Manchester, which they use as a training facility, when they're playing in the UK. 

After the Williams signing, Australia coach Mal Meninga floated the possibility of a tour match between the Kangaroos and Toronto before next year's Ashes tests.

"Sonny Bill Williams will provide an immediate impact for rugby league in the northern hemisphere and for the development of rugby in North America," he said. 

"When the Kangaroos tour England in 2020, we will look forward to playing a warm-up game against the Wolfpack, as it would create a lot of excitement for the sport."

Williams becomes Toronto's first new signing for 2020, as the club looks to strengthen both its profile and playing roster for their maiden Super League campaign.

Toronto had several former NRL players on their roster last season, including ex-Kiwis centre Chase Stanley and Bodene Thompson, Ricky Leuele, Josh McCrone and Ashton Sims. 

Williams isn't the only name on their hitlist, with English rugby stars Manu Tuilagi and Ben Te'o also on their radar, along with names like Valentine Holmes and Semi Radradra. 


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