Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson is confident Sonny Bill Williams will be playing for his side at some point this NRL season, with both parties close to a deal.
Williams has been linked with a return to the NRL, after his Toronto Wolfpack club withdrew from the English Super League competition on Tuesday (NZ time), due to the "overwhelming financial challenges" posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other clubs including the NZ Warriors and Canterbury Bulldogs - where Williams won the 2004 NRL premiership - are also in the running, but the Roosters are the favourites to secure his services.
Williams has a strong relationship with Robinson and Roosters boss Nick Politis, and he also played 45 games for the 'Tri-Colours' between 2013-14.
Robinson knows there are lots of hurdles to overcome, but is certain a deal will be struck before the August 3 mid-season signings deadline.
"We're down the track in discussions with Sonny," says Robinson.
"There's a few things that need to be done to get it sorted but conversations are clear … it's just all the details that need to get sorted with how it's going to work.
"Travel won't be until next week, it's hard to get flights back, and then a quarantine period and training period.
"It is going to be towards the back end with four or five games to go, that would be the earliest I would think.
"He's a Rooster and he's going to add value in some key areas."
Some of the hurdles the Williams must overcome to sign with the Roosters include getting permission to enter Australia, as he's not an Australian citizen, although his wife is an Australian passport holder and two of his kids were born there.
On top of that, Williams would be required to terminate his two-year $10 million contract with the Wolfpack, although Toronto owner David Argyle said he is prepared to do that, providing he re-signs in 2021.
"If Sonny wants to play NRL for the remainder of the season and come back to the Wolfpack, how it is done is semantics," Argyle told Channel Nine.
"Fundamentally, all we are doing is using loopholes that can be orchestrated or lawyerised to get around the intent."
Williams is reportedly waiting for approval from Australian Border Force authorities, while there are limited flights from the UK to Australia.
He will also need to quarantine for two weeks.
He also hasn't played rugby league since March and underwent knee surgery the same month, so would likely require a couple of weeks to get to match fitness.
The Roosters face the Warriors in Gosford on Saturday.
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