Sonny Bill Williams is excited about the challenge ahead at Toronto Wolfpack and revealed he started finalising his move to the Super League newcomers the day after New Zealand’s semi-final defeat to England.
The 34-year-old faced the media for the first time since signing a two-year contract with the Canadian club in a deal thought to be worth in excess of £5million.
Williams, a dual-code international, had a lengthy meeting in Japan with Toronto head coach Brian McDermott where he was convinced to sign up to the Wolfpack project.
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) November 14, 2019
He subsequently told All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen where he would be playing for 2020 in the week building up to the third-place play-off with Wales at the World Cup.
“It’s great what Toronto have done and what they’re trying to achieve. It all lined up and as a man of faith I thought it was just meant to be,” Williams said.
“My manager was speaking to these guys around that (World Cup) time, but for me I said I don’t want to hear anything about it because I wouldn’t have done myself or the New Zealand jersey any justice in thinking about that.
“But as soon as the England game finished, it was the next day I caught up with my manager and he filled me in and what a blessed opportunity it is.
“It might have been that week, on the training paddock when Shags (Steve Hansen) came up to me and asked how I was going and if the news was right.
“So, I told him I hadn’t sat down as of yet with the coaches, but I’m talking to them and if all goes well it looks like it will come to fruition and that was it.”
When Williams sat down with McDermott, the meeting was only meant to last 30 minutes, but the pair were together for hours.
The two-time World Cup winner believes Toronto’s style of play will suit him, adding: “After I spoke to Brian, I started watching a few of their games.
“I could tell straight away their style is different to other teams and then I made contact with a couple of the Australian players and by all accounts it’s different and there are challenges, but I’ve always had challenges in my journey, so this is nothing I’m not used to.
“Overall what they’re trying to achieve on and off the field is something special and instead of looking at the challenge and thinking what if I fail, it’s what if we succeed and I am part of that.
“North America, if that door opens? The opportunities for young players coming through would be amazing for themselves and their families and to say I am a part of that would be something special.”
— Toronto Wolfpack (@TOwolfpack) November 7, 2019
Prior to the World Cup in Japan, the All Blacks centre had intended to remain in New Zealand, but this gave him a new challenge to get stuck into.
“Once this opportunity come about. It was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down,” Williams admitted.
“Yes, I’m a sportsman but I need to have a purpose and something that I really believe in. Just Brian’s philosophy and how he wants to play the game, I feel like I can be really suited to their style of play.
“As Toronto players, we are going out there to turn some heads, but also the amount of support the lads have back in Toronto sounds crazy. It is a journey, there is pressure there, but it’s so exciting.”