Sonny Bill Wil­liams

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NZ Rugby World - - Outside Influences -

Sonny Bill Wil­liams has done things his way and that has made him a source of de­bate and at times de­ri­sion.

The lat­ter be­cause not ev­ery­one – cer­tainly not tra­di­tion­al­ists – have liked or un­der­stood his ca­reer ap­proach.

Wil­liams came to New Zealand in 2010 af­ter time in league and a stint in France play­ing rugby. No one was quite sure what he would bring in terms of abil­ity, be­yond the fact he was ob­vi­ously a stun­ning ath­lete.

As it turned out, his key in­flu­ences have been in three dis­tinct ar­eas. The first and per­haps most ob­vi­ous in­flu­ence has been in en­cour­ag­ing rugby play­ers to o oad when­ever they can.

It was part of the game be­fore he ar­rived, just no one did it quite as of­ten or as well as he did. That was his skill – the abil­ity to shoot one of his gi­ant arms out of con­tact and get the ball away.

Wil­liams was able to do it al­most ev­ery time he had the ball and the con­ti­nu­ity that o ered made an enor­mous di er­ence to the abil­ity of teams he was in to at­tack.

The more he did it, the more his team­mates and op­po­nents be­gan to see it as a must-have skill and in the seven years since Wil­liams first played in New Zealand, the num­ber of o oads per game has al­most tre­bled.

“He’s di er­ent to any­thing we’ve ever seen,” All Blacks as­sis­tant coach Wayne Smith once en­thused. “It’s not a usual rugby union style. It’s in­ter­est­ing to peo­ple and it’s good for our team. I haven’t seen any­one like him. It’s just so di er­ent a skill set to what we’ve seen be­fore. We’ve seen the odd guy o oad, he does it con­sis­tently.”

The sec­ond area that Wil­liams has in­flu­enced is ca­reer plan­ning. He has shown that it is okay to have a va­ri­ety of am­bi­tions and that no one need com­mit them­selves to one team and one code for the du­ra­tion of their ca­reer.

If there was a lit­tle bit of un­wanted tra­di­tion left in New Zealand rugby in re­cent years it came in the form of ad­min­is­tra­tive ex­pec­ta­tion that play­ers would con­tinue to be loyal.

There was this un­spo­ken be­lief that the right thing to do was to play in New Zealand right to the death of a ca­reer and any­one who went in a di er­ent di­rec­tion was lack­ing moral fi­bre.

Wil­liams has per­haps bro­ken down bar­ri­ers on that front and shown that it is pos­si­ble to flit be­tween codes, dab­ble in box­ing and re­main at the pin­na­cle of all.

His other great in­flu­ence has been within the teams he has played for. Wil­liams is one of the most ded­i­cated and ad­vanced train­ers on the planet. His at­ten­tion to de­tail is phe­nom­e­nal and he mi­cro man­ages his body in a way few rugby play­ers ever have.

As a de­vout Mus­lim he uses his faith as a path to a more whole­some life, where he eats in­cred­i­bly well, trains hard and re­searches end­less ways to im­prove his men­tal and phys­i­cal well­be­ing.

He has in­vested in all sorts of train­ing equip­ment, has tried the un­usual prac­tice of cup­ping and gen­er­ally has an aware­ness of all sorts of al­ter­na­tive ther­a­pies and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion tech­niques.

But above all else, he ap­pears not to take life overly se­ri­ously and has a re­laxed ap­proach to all that he does.

“He’s the ul­ti­mate pro­fes­sional,” says vet­eran wing Is­rael Dagg. “He’s al­ways got these new tools and is bring­ing in these new ma­chines. If you watch him he’s al­ways stretch­ing and look­ing af­ter his body. He doesn’t even lift tonnes of weights, he’s just nat­u­rally gifted and strong. He looks af­ter his re­cov­ery, food, nutri­tion, flex­i­bil­ity is huge for him – all that stu is 100 per cent im­por­tant.”

AT­TEN­TION TO DE­TAIL SBW is a mi­cro man­ager of his own body.

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