The chance to get closer to rugby union, league and boxing star Sonny Bill Williams has been brought to the South Waikato .
A Super 15 Chiefs jersey signed by the popular sportsman is being raffled at $5 a ticket, with proceeds going towards the Putaruru Rugby Football Club.
Putaruru rugby players were visited by Chiefs Assistant coach and All Blacks royalty Wayne Smith at their prizegiving last week and heard about the big star, to whom Smith and his wife became surrogate parents to during his time with the Crusaders.
Smith said he and his wife Trish were sent by the New Zealand Rugby Union to France in 2009 to talk to Sonny Bill Williams about his New Zealand prospects.
‘‘In a square in Toulon, we had a cup of coffee and I outlined basically a dream for him about him playing for the All Blacks. I also outlined the kind of money he could make to compared to the $1 million in Toulon.’’
Smith said Williams would’ve loved to be an All Black then but felt he wasn’t at that level. If he did make progress, he would let Smith know.
At that point Smith could not imagine ever hearing from Sonny Bill Williams again, and told the NZRU so .
However Williams did improve and Smith did hear from him.
Smith says that the commercial team of the NZRU did not see Williams’ potential.
Williams and and his manager Khoder Nasser did not care about the difference between the Toulon and New Zealand packages, because they would make up the difference through Williams boxing.
So Williams went to Canterbury, in Smith’s opinion, the right place for a rugby education.
‘‘He used to come around every week, eat a meal with us, every time he’d come he’d bring his book around and we’d have half an hour before tea. He’d ask questions about his game and I’d do a wee bit of review on the computer for him. He’d write everything down. He’d ask, ‘How do I work on that? How do I work on that?’ Because he was pretty green.’’
According to Smith there were a lot of differences in Canterbury, and Williams never felt there was a personal meaning in rugby until he moved to the Chiefs.
Smith felt the move gave Williams’ talent a place to grow and it changed his mindset hugely.
‘‘He did everything a professional should do, these young kids would come in and follow his lead. They’d eat well, they’d sleep well and go like hell each Saturday.’’
Sonny Bill Williams loves the game and so does his father, having not watched a NRL game for three years.
Tickets are $5 each and available through the Putaruru Rugby Football Club for another two weeks. Contact PRFC Sponsorship manager Kimberley Crocker 0275 275 6082 for further details.
SONNY BILL WILLIAMS: Signed Chiefs Jersey is a raffle prize from the Putaruru Rugby Club.