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Wolfpack's Sonny Bill Williams opens up on becoming face of rugby league

Arun Srinivasan
Contributor

The Toronto Wolfpack made international headlines when they signed All Blacks forward Sonny Bill Williams to a one-year contract worth a reported $10 million. Now, their prized signing is embracing the challenge of being the face of rugby league in North America.

Williams, who just finished a stint in rugby union during the 2019 World Cup with New Zealand, held his introductory press conference and spoke about the expectations he’s facing entering his first season with the Wolfpack, who were promoted to the top-tier Betfred Super League.

“If we can get some traction and the sport takes off over there, that would be awesome,” Williams said to The Guardian’s Aaron Bower. “I want to help deliver some exposure in North America and prove to people that these guys are here to stay. Who knows, maybe we can start another team in Canada too?”

Williams, who has won two World Cups with New Zealand in 2011 and 2015, drew comparisons to LeBron James, which reads as somewhat hasty, and he’s uncomfortable with the label.

“I understand why they’ve done it, though ... to get traction in North America. But there’s no better opportunity for me than this one and not wanting to be compared to him doesn’t mean it’s pressure, it just means I don’t see myself as a big star like that.”

Williams also hinted that more top-tier players could be joining him on the Wolfpack.

“A few big names in union have expressed an interest to me,” Williams said. “I won’t name names or I’ll get into trouble but let’s just say if we do sign some big rugby players to come to Toronto, it would be great for us as a club.”

Now that he’s undoubtedly the face of the Wolfpack, and perhaps the face of rugby league in North America, Williams couldn’t be more thrilled.

“This project has got me on the edge of my seat. Who knows what success looks like for Toronto but it’s exciting to be part of it and unlike anything I’ve experienced before.”

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