SBW: Maybe, No, Yes
The first question, impolitely rhetorical, was WTF? The answer to the second question – will the Kiwis still want him? – will be decided today. Sonny Bill Williams has flip-flopped. Again. After keeping the coach and team waiting, then turning selection down, the 28-year-old has today made himself available for the Rugby League World Cup, to be held in Britain later this month. If chosen, it will cost a loyal Kiwi player his place in the team.
Fans are in uproar, commentators are fulminating but the man himself remains tight-lipped about his on-again, off-again, on-again flirtation with three sporting codes: league, rugby and boxing.
Emblematic of how William’s behaviour divides fans is a poll run by the Sydney Morning Herald. Which sport, league or rugby, would you like to see SBW play, the newspaper asked its league-mad readers. More than 60% said rugby. They don’t like him.
But his 13th hour change of mind will help the New Zealand team, already hit by injury, defend its world title against the No 1 ranked side, Australia, and a resurgent Great Britain.
Two automatic selections – formidable back-rower Jeremy Smith and star centre Shaun Kenny-Dowell – are missing. Smith is at home caring for his premature born baby, while Kenny-Dowell broke his jaw playing the National Rugby League grand final in Sydney last week.
New Zealand’s opening match is against Samoa at St Helens on 27 October.