So Sonny Bill Williams has been made an offer by the NZRU. No doubt, it is an incredibly generous offer, packed with endorsement deals, opportunities to box and lasting only one year. Frankly, I don't see why they bother.
The NZRU is not doing well financially. This is abundantly clear, given the number of provincial sides in debt, as well as reports which suggest their cash reserves will not last many more years. Since the professional era began, player salaries have been inflated further and further, and it is starting to cost the national game dearly. I am not a critic of professionalism, players deserve to be paid for what is essentially a full time job.
However, are we forgetting something crucial about the All Blacks in the rush to sign a star like Sonny Bill? The black jersey is bigger than any one player, even bigger than any one successful, Cup winning team. There is history in the jersey. There is mana in the jersey. It is an insult to that jersey to have selfish players wearing it. What will that jersey lose if it becomes just another well marketed brand?
Furthermore, is SBW even worth the hype? He is blessed with the most gifted agent of his generation, the ruthless Khoder Nasser. Is it possible that the vast majority of the positive media coverage of SBW comes straight from the press releases of this gifted hype builder? Looking at the facts, he barely started a game in the World Cup. He is not a part of the Smith-Nonu partnership, the undisputed kings of the midfield. We have quicker wingers than SBW. Hell, he isn't even the best midfielder at the Chiefs, that would be Kahui. For that matter, this weekend was the first time he has scored all season. There is a veritable production line of talented backs coming through the ranks, wouldn't they be equally worthy of investment as players?
Lastly, Sonny Bill Williams has not given the All Black jersey the respect it deserves. To be an All Black, you should make that goal your life. Williams clearly does not think this way. To him, the All Blacks are just another team to flit through on his way to bigger paydays. Remember the Bulldogs? He skipped out on them with time left on his contract. That is exactly what will happen with the All Blacks. In my view, the NZRU should pre-empt this and offer him a bog standard contract, with no frills that wouldn't be offered to say, Cory Jane or Colin Slade. If he takes that contract, then I would eat my words willingly, because it would be a sign that he takes the All Blacks seriously enough to consider turning down vast amounts of money just for the Black jersey. My guess though is that he would spurn the offer on the advice of his manager and chase the dollars somewhere else.